Funny how everyone who says that looks exhausted all the time
Bart Sherwood looks a little like a boulder: nothing can shake him, but get him rolling in the right direction and nothing’ll stop him either. A good thing too, because he’s one of these unfortunate people with the mixed luck of a job he can describe, without irony, as “the best job in the world.”
Funny how almost everyone who says that looks a few nights short on sleep. You ever noticed that? The best jobs in the world all look so tiring.
I usually believe people who say that about their jobs, though. I believe Mr. Sherwood. He has data to back up his claim, you see. He has data that directly correlates the work he does to the reduction of the suicide rate in the veteran population. That is no bad thing to say about your workday.
Bart runs a program called TADSAW (stands for “train a dog, save a warrior). TADSAW trains therapy dogs for vets coping with psychological trauma associated with military service. For eleven years, he’s run it as a small operation. The process is prohibited by numbers. Each dog takes a certain amount of time to train, and one of the ways that his program stands out is the vets are involved in the training of the dogs. Which means that the vets need to apply to the program, they need to be evaluated, and they need to get through the training with their dogs. Everything involved takes time, which means that, by himself, Bart can only bring so many vets and dogs through the program. In his first decade in business, he’s put 12,000 dogs and vets through the program, which isn’t bad. There’s some emerging science says that TADSAW may have reduced potential suicides by an appreciable percentage. The program definitely improved the quality of life of those 12,000 vets, and that’s no bad thing.
Thing is, to get that approximately thousand a year, he processed 3,000 applications.
That’s quite a few. I can’t think of anything I’ve done 3,000 times in a year—least of all potentially saved 3,000 lives.
3,000 is good. 3,000 is fine.
He’d like to do better.
Bart’s goal is to raise his operation. This year, his goal is to put 12,000 dogs and veterans through the training program. That’s 12,000 pushed all the way through, from application to a properly trained therapy dog and veteran duo.
To do it, he’ll need to process 36,000 applications—a literal order of magnitude more work. (I had to look up what an order of magnitude was.)
But that’s cool, because Bart has the best job in the world. He said so himself.
I don’t know, folks. It sounds like pretty good work to train a thousand therapy dogs in a year. That sounds to me like Bart’s doing good work.
Like so many other people in that situation, Bart’s being punished for good behavior with a demand for more work from him.
Fine. Then let’s get more dogs trained as therapy dogs. That’s all to the good.
It all started with Kelsey.
Before TADSAW, Bart volunteered with a program that helped kids gain confidence by partnering them with dogs. Children with issues reading could come and read to dogs, who are an amazing audience for bad reading, I can tell you from experience. They just like to be involved. It’s an amazing idea.
There was a dog named Kelsey. It was Kelsey’s job to listen to a lass of nine—help her with her confidence. We’ll call her Rebecca. When she started the program, Rebecca had the hardest time pronouncing anything she read. After a year working with Kelsey, though, she was confident to read and perform in front of anyone.
Rebecca’s dad is a veteran. When he saw the progress that Rebecca made with Kelsey, he said to Bart, “Man, I wish I had a dog who could do that.”
And Bart said…
“Train a dog, save a warrior.”
Bart characterized this as being in the wrong place at the right time. He perceived a need and found himself empowered to do something about it. His conscience overrode any other opinion he may have had.
He started to pair veterans and dogs, for no reason other than it needed doing. In his first year, he got a hundred pairs through the program.
It made a solid foundation for building the best job in the world. Through referral, he increased his rate of doing business steadily over the next decade. He’s basically at capacity now, so he’ll need to vastly expand his operation in order to do in one year what he’s done in the last ten.
He’s the right guy for the job, though. His program is popular among the crowd who knows about it, and it is for two big reasons.
Reason one, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy reason: it’s slightly cheaper than other programs.
Reason two: Bart accepts applicants with broader sources of trauma than some programs. Combat isn’t the only source of trauma in the military, you see. Every job in every military branch has stresses. They’re all stressful work environments for hundreds of reasons that most of us can’t imagine. Some programs will only work with vets inside of some strict definitions of PTSD. Bart wants to not only destigmatize PTSD, but he’s working on broadening the situations that people in his position can understand as trauma.
And why not? A properly organized program is in a position to help people dealing with a lot of kinds of trauma. Why shouldn’t front line workers with the Red Cross have therapy dogs, for instance? That’s what Bart wants to know. They send in dogs with the second wave of emergency responders after a hurricane, or whatever. It makes sense to send them in first, if they’re properly trained to do it.
The best job in the world looks like a headache.
I don’t know, guys. Saving lives looks tiring.
Bart Sherwood wants to do more of it. He wants to process as much work in one year as he’s done in ten. Eighteen veterans coping with trauma and difficulty integrating with society commit suicide every day. I don’t know what they’re dealing with. I can’t imagine it. Most people can’t. The least we can do for these people is help them find more reasons to hope and more reasons to stick around.
Dogs don’t care what you’ve been through. They just care if you’re upset.
Let’s help Bart, if we can.