BOOKS: Bombproof

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November/December 2009:

Bombproof: A true story of second chances
by Leana Beasley & Stephen Sawicki
L’Universe Inc. (1663 Liberty Drive,
Bloomington, IN 47403; www.iuniverse.com),
2009.
288 pages, paperback; $18.95. E-book download: $6.00.

Bronson, a young Rottweiler mix, almost
died at a Washington animal shelter. But a dog
trainer for the Prison Pet Partnership Program at
the Washington Corrections Center in Pierce
County sensed something special about Bronson,
formerly known as Bruce, as she scouted the
shelter for candidate dogs to be trained by
inmates to assist the disabled. Sergeant Barbara
Davenport, master canine trainer for the
program, chose to give him a chance.”


Leona Beasley entered the military in
1982, seeking economic and educational
opportunities. Her military career ended
violently two years later, but not in combat.
Her superior officer taunted, teased, and
finally raped her, slicing her arm with a
knife. Beasley’s commanding officer accused her
of lying when she reported the crime. Married to
another soldier, she later became pregnant and
opted out of the military.
The attack continued to traumatize her.
Beasley endured troubling flashbacks, pounding
headaches, and frightful nightmares. During the
next several years she attempted suicide numerous
times. She was found wandering on the road,
incoherent. In and out of psychiatric
institutions, she took anti-depressant
medication. She saw psychotherapists. She
separated from her husband, but they later
reunited.
Seizures, resulting from a fall, became
nearly uncontrollable. She almost died after
aspirating vomit during one seizure. Memory loss
overwhelmed her. She felt easily frustrated. A
therapist suggested a seizure alert dog and put
her in touch with the prison program. The program
eventually matched her with Bronson. Partnership
with the well-trained dog uplifted her mood and
improved her attitude toward life.
“Given my isolation in recent years, it
was an adventure,” Beasley recalls of their
first outing together. “We window-shopped for a
whileĆ ..Afterwards, we took a break for a soda,
then strolled around the marina to admire the
boats.”
Not all of Beasley’s outings with Bronson
flowed so smoothly. Store owners demanded that
she leave, a common experience of people who use
service dogs, even in the familiar role of guide
dogs for the blind. Even storekeepers on the
military base where Beasley lived ordered her out.
A vest identifying Bronson as a service
animal and an official identification card made
little difference. Once Beasley experienced a
seizure in public. Bronson alerted her. She
tied him to her wrist. Someone called 911. By
the time help arrived, the seizure had passed.
A state trooper threatened to take Bronson to the
pound, causing Beasley to experience extreme
emotional distress. Only the arrival of her
husband, in military uniform, diffused the
tense situation.
Bombproof is an interesting story of an
unwanted dog’s emergence as a service dog. It
also describes a long segment in a troubled
woman’s life, actually spending less time on her
relationship with Bronson than on her earlier
psychological issues. In addition Bombproof
exposes nagging interpersonal problems at the
prison program-in tedious detail-that distract
the focus from Bronson’s effect on Beaseley and
the importance that seizure alert dogs have, in
general, to their people.
This is not the only extensive
digression. One of Beasley’s therapists was
Margarethe Cammermeyer, who fought a prolonged
legal battle with the military over her discharge
for being a lesbian.
Acknowledging her identity with a brief
summary of her case would be appropriate, but
Bombproof provides much more information about it
than really fits into Beasley’s story.
–Debra J. White

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