I’ve got the greatest job!
My name’s Benny. I’m a bulldog and one of two canine support specialists at Lines for Life. I provide our military veterans crisis team with emotional grounding support—that’s the technical phrase for using my puppy love skills (nudging, pawing, leaning and licking) to help alleviate anxiety or distress. I’m able to hear and feel both the joy and stress that my crisis teammates experience. I stand by to give love and support for all our crisis workers as they field phone calls from Veterans who are carrying more than they can bear. My mom, Erin Miller, served in the Army’s 814th Engineer battalion as a combat engineer during Operation Iraqi Freedom III in 2005. Her unit traveled across the country helping, adding forces with supplies, and building bridges for other units on land and water. Her unit was highly awarded with distinguished honor from the President of the United States.
When Erin and I first met, we bonded immediately. I take great pride and responsibility in giving her grounding support, helping her with post-traumatic stress disorder, and best of all, giving her the support she needs so she can help other Veterans.
My typical day at Lines for Life begins by making rounds to inspect our work areas. I do a headcount, hand out free love and puppy kisses, and ensure no leftovers are present that could harm our team. I use my skills and training to identify when someone on staff is having a challenging or stressful call. For example, last week, Jules was on a tough call. I could tell just how invested she was in the caller and their experiences—she was close to tears. I went over to her, put my head on her knee, and she laid her hand on my head—that’s how we stayed for the remainder of the call. I helped Jules calm her own difficult feelings so that she could finish helping the caller find a way forward.
I spend a lot of time hanging out on my bed; but don’t be confused, while it looks like I’m sleeping, I’m just resting my eyes. One of my main jobs is to make sure that our staff are taking care of themselves. If our staff don’t take good care of themselves, they can’t take good care of those who are calling for help. So, I’m always listening for what’s going on around me and looking for ways to help our team members when they are impacted by a call. Yesterday I helped Jenny slow down and find serenity. She says that Lines for Life would be a more somber place without me. They sure know how to make me feel special!
Being a Canine Support Specialist is great! I lift everyone’s spirits for a living and I get to eat homemade treats from Jaimie, play tricks with Kim, and support the awesome military services crisis intervention team with the help of my closest colleague Chex—an enormous Chesapeake Bay Retriever. But it’s hard work, too. Since our Ambassador Center opened in September, we’ve fielded hundreds of calls from Veterans, service members, and their families. There’s nothing better than when staff celebrate a successful call—I get lots of pets, pats, and scratches. And lucky for me, almost all calls end well here!