The miracle of one dog plus lots of love

Hi guys. The letter below is from a good woman I know. It doesn’t describe 1/100th of what she does out of love for her fiancé. Please help this young couple if you can. And you absolutely can, no matter what, by maximally sharing this post—and especially this link. Please do that, a lot. The dogs you’ll read about below cost serious money to maintain and train—and the visionary who does that work has already given these kids so many breaks he qualifies as a saint.

I know any amount with which you can help the three of them would be more appreciated than words can express

Here’s the letter:

Hi there. I’m sending this e-mail to many people. Some of you know me better than others. I’m Christie Landtroop. I am asking for your help and prayers.

My fiance, Matt, has been suffering for a long time (his whole life, really). He had been doing fairly well when we met in 2009, but he quickly unraveled before my eyes.

The past three years have been filled with doctors and therapists and tests and medications. There have also been trips to the ER and hospital stays.

The trouble is that Matt has things going on with his brain.

In September of 2011 (after a lifetime of being treated for ADHD and then for bipolar disorder) he was finally diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, also called high-functioning Autism. The hard part about his Asperger’s is that right now he is not at all high-functioning. That term means only that his IQ is not affected. He is, however, distinctly limited in his understanding of people and social norms. He has never fit in, and has few friends. He is disabled by his anxiety and sensory over-stimulation. He has frequent panic attacks and has trouble being around anyone but me (and at times he can’t stand to be near me, either). He also has a tendency to intentionally hit his head against walls to cope with the turmoil in his head. Matt knows he is different, but he can’t understand why many people don’t like him. And this causes so much pain for him.

This past spring, Matt was diagnosed with something called Dysautonomia. It is a dysfunction of his Autonomic Nervous System. That is the part of the nervous system that regulates things like body temperature, blood pressure, and the body’s “fight-or-flight” responses. Matt’s symptoms have shown up as him losing consciousness during normal activities like standing up, walking across a room, or lightly (accidentally) bumping his head on the car door frame when getting into the car. This, in conjunction with his Asperger’s, has produced some very scary situations. His Dysautonomia is the reason he lost his job at Walmart over two years ago. Thankfully this Dysautonomia is now mostly controlled by a medication he started a few months ago. He still gets dizzy at times, and if he forgets to take his medicine it is usually a very bad day for us both.

Just last month, in September 2012, Matt was finally diagnosed with PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). This is a condition you tend to associate with war veterans and victims of violent crime. Matt is not a veteran, but is a survivor of a different kind of trauma. Much of the trauma he endured had to do with the severe bullying he got growing up. There are other things as well, but the point is that due (as we’ve now learned) to his PTSD, Matt is suffering from nightmares and frequent episodes of dissociation. PTSD also causes Matt additional, unfounded and unpredictable anxieties that pop-up several times a day. These random PTSD anxieties plus the Asperger’s anxieties overwhelm him; they’re a very intense combination.

Last year during holiday time, Matt experienced some really tough times due to his conditions. He experienced many frightening things and something called a Dissociative Fugue. You can hear from us about what happened because we recorded the below YouTube videos to document it. (Keep in mind that all we knew at the time was that he has Asperger’s.)

Part 1 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hq4q-uuvDn4&list=PL337B978500FB10FB&index=1&feature=plpp_video

Part 2 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6jFYJ5VNQdM&list=PL337B978500FB10FB&index=2&feature=plpp_video

Matt has tried many different ways to cope with his symptoms, from group therapy, to intensive inpatient therapy, to individual therapy, to medications than I’ll ever remember. Unfortunately, none of these has provided lasting relief or help to him.

*** Now for the good part!!! ***

We somehow got the idea that getting a service dog would be a helpful and stabilizing influence for Matt. I was fortunate enough to find the world’s best dog trainers for neuro-psychological service dogs only one hour away from us. Bob Taylor is the President of DogWish.org, and he is an amazing man. He invited us up to the DogWish kennels to meet with him and his other trainers as well as some dogs.

We have been up there six times now, and whenever Matt is around those dogs he is a different person! He is happy and calmer. He is focused and present. The moment the dogs go away, he is back to the tormented Matt that struggles to survive.

There’s a terrier there called Brat that will run and jump into Matt’s arms. A little six-week-old puppy named Dezzy loves to lick Matt’s face and untie his shoelaces. Matt loves the German Shepherds like Lexi and Coby. The way his whole face and demeanor lit up when he first saw Lexi was an absolutely priceless moment for me to witness. I was near tears the whole way home just replaying that moment in my mind.

Our goal is to raise the money to get Matt a properly and highly trained service dog through DogWish. Bob thoroughly evaluates and examines each dog before he pairs them up with their handler to make sure they are a perfect match. The dogs are trained for six months before they are released into the care of their handlers.

Matt’s dream dog is a fluffy German Shepherd. Bob told us to go ahead and start searching near us to find some for him to check out. Normally, we’d have to wait until we got a large down payment together before we could get to this point, but Bob is so kind and generous that he has agreed to get started now and we will raise as much as we can as fast as we can along the way.

If you are able to help in any amount please follow this link to Matt’s DogWish page.  If you are not able to help at this time but know of others who would be touched enough to share this or contribute, please forward this e-mail to them in its entirety. Please leave comments of support and encouragement on our fundraising page as well so Matt knows that there are people out there who care and want to help him.

I thank you so very much with ALL of my heart for taking the time to read this.

If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me (troopster001@yahoo.com) and I will get back to you!

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Love,

Christie Landtroop

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is co-founder of The NALT Christians Project and founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here). His blog is here. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • Christie L(andtroop)

    Hi everyone,

    First – Thank you John for sharing our story and encouraging your readers to participate. We are truly blessed.

    Second – I wanted to share some more information from DogWish about PTSD and Asperger’s in relation to service dogs. Here are a couple of links:

    http://www.dogwish.org/ServiceDogs_PTSD.html

    http://www.dogwish.org/ServiceDogs_Aspergers.html

    Thank you all for supporting us in any way that you are. We appreciate you sharing with your friends and praying that this gets to the right people. We are indebted to you for your generosity and kindness.

    Have a fantastic weekend!

  • Diana A.

    I have no money right now but I will definitely share this on my Facebook page.

    • Christie L(andtroop)

      Thank you Diana. We appreciate you sharing this. :)

  • Matt

    Hello there, fellow person named Matt!

    I saw your story and knew immediately some of the things you face. I have PTSD as well. It has placed me in unsafe situations and I sometimes feel like I am going crazy. I do have two strong supports in my life: My partner and her cats. It looks like you have the life partner thing down. I want to help give you the kind of comfort and assistance only a good animal companion can give.

    I know it can feel like the PTSD symptoms will be with you forever and you’ll never regain control of your life. But you will, if you just keep breathing, if you just keep moving. I have improved slowly but surely over the past year, and it’s worth fighting for. You will get through this. You will triumph.

    • Christie L(andtroop)

      Matt says: “That was really nice. It makes me feel good.”

      Thank you Matt for your lovely comment :)

      • Matt

        You’re very welcome. I am lucky to be in a situation where I work full-time but have money leftover to spend as I wish. After I pay my student loans and current school fees, I’ll keep checking up on your progress and continue to help :) .

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Thank you, Matt. You’re a real blessing to this blog. (And hello, Christie’s Matt! Good to hear from you!)

  • Jill H

    Hi Matt and Christie,

    I went over to your DogWish page today. I couldn’t give much, but I wanted to give to a cause I truly believe makes a profound improvement in the quality of a person’s life.

    Sorry I forgot comments directly to Matt! Please tell me we all wish him wellness.

    • Christie L(andtroop)

      Thank you so much Jill. It’s a wonderful surprise to see how much people care. Your donation is just as big as anyone else’s to us and we appreciate it greatly. Thank you thank you thank you :)

      • Jill H

        Please keep us looped in when Matt gets his dog! Take very good care of you, the loving helper, too.

        • Christie L(andtroop)

          I will definitely keep you updated! Through the donation page and through John, here, I can let everyone know what’s going on. :)

  • Shari Walker Smith via Facebook

    Everyone is having some sort of issue with Facebook, today. Thanks for posting the article.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alan.herendich Alan Herendich via Facebook
  • http://www.facebook.com/barb.u.patterson Barb Ulrich Patterson via Facebook

    Is there a fb page link? My phone trouble doing complicated things. I was able to read the article, but not get to any other pages. Thanks.

  • http://unchainedfaith.com Amy

    My sister has Asperger’s and PTSD, and quite a lot of what you’ve said resonates. We didn’t know until a few months ago why she is the way she is, but now we have some clarity.

    Matt, I am so sorry that you’ve had a hard time feeling like people like/understand you. My sister, quirky as she is, is one of the best people I know. I wouldn’t have her any other way–she is who she is, and I love her.

    Sending prayers/positive thoughts your way, Christie and Matt. I hope that you are able to get just the right dog and that it brings much joy and love into your lives.

    • Christie L(andtroop)

      Thank you Amy! We are still searching for the right dog. Our attempts this weekend were not successful. Thank you for your support and sharing your story with us :)

  • Jill H
  • Jill H

    An even more awesome update from Matt’s DogWish page!

    http://www.gofundme.com/MattsDogWish?utm_campaign=Emails&utm_source=sendgrid.com&utm_medium=email

    Now the work really begins, but it’s the start of something really great. Matt and Christie, I am so happy for you both!