As most of my loyal readers know or have figured out, I have PTSD. I’ve had it and dealt with it for many years. I’ve tried many less than effective “treatments” over the years. Some not so smart, but that was before I really knew what it was that was “wrong with me…. After my actual diagnosis, I tired medication but didn’t care for how it made me feel… then I just tried to deal with it on my own, that didn’t work so well. I lived with it and helped other people and animals as much I could. Now that I can’t even do that, except through online activities ( I do hope to get back to being able to physically do some more work with wildlife and people again in the future) I am really feeling the depression side of the “disorder”. But unlike a lot of people, and unlike a younger dumber me, I am getting real help now… talking with a counselor, getting EMDR therapy, and looking into natural as well as maybe chemical assistance ( not alcohol or drugs sheesh… medication if necessary – going to work with a naturopath first). OK so enough of THAT nightmare stuff… let’s get to something a little more uplifting – Hopes and Dreams….

So knowing a little about me, and about my past as a Veteran, as a Captain in the Fire Service, as a wildlife rescuer, rehab assistant and educator, as a human being (with an INFJ on every Myers-Briggs type tests that I’ve taken) – I have a SUPER strong sense of duty and service to  help people, to listen and be kind, to give back. I’ve since had to give up being part of the fire service, I retired as a Captain and I am proud of that part of my life. I also had to give up (hopefully only temporarily) the Wildlife work due to health issues.

I’ve had a LOT of time on my hands to really think about my hopes and dreams, what I want to do , who I want to be with the “new me” ….. I’ve had this particular dream for a couple of years, I’ve shared it with a few people and no one has called me completely insane yet, though I have gotten some strange looks, but I am used to that my entire life. I’ve talked this post over with my wonderfully supportive wife, Christy and she supports my dream (with some legitimate “restrictions” that I agree with – that it can’t bankrupt us and that we don’t live ON the actual property) So with that let’s get to my dream!!

It is to start a non-profit organization with 2 primary goals and 1 secondary – to help wildlife and people….. Not just any wildlife or any people though… specifically:
1. Wildlife – rescue, rehab, release and education
2. People – Treatment and support for PTSD sufferers – primarily Servicemen and women and First Responders.
3. A Corvid (Corvidae) Sanctuary for non-releasable birds in the Corvidae family

My work with wildlife greatly helped me to cope and heal some of my PTSD. With every successful release of a rehabilitated animal back into the wild I was able to also release some of my own pain, or dedicate the release to help someone else heal an emotional scar. I figure that I am not alone in that feeling… the people I worked with, a lot of them some of the best people I have ever known, were also “broken” in some way and I believe that they had that same release through the work that they did.

Knowing this, I can’t think of anything better to help both the wild ones and the hurt people than to put the two together…. My ultimate realization of this dream would be for a Soldier who is suffering from PTSD to get treatment at the facility as well as put time in volunteering to help the wildlife and at the end of their time be able to release a Bald Eagle back into the skies of America to be free and along with that release to let go of his or her own pain and trauma and be “released” back to a healthy normal life in that same Country that they served.

I have talked with some people who think that this is a great idea, and that they know people – Dr’s, counselors, wildlife rehabbers and just generally awesome people who would volunteer or greatly discount their time to help with this dream of mine. I obviously have a LOT of work to do to make this dream a reality, a business plan, fund raising, commitments, land purchase & construction, licensing etc… so the dream is not small by any means… what I am thinking of doing is “crowd funding” – Like Kickstarter as a way to raise money for the initial capital. But even before that I want to know YOUR opinion and if you’d be willing to share this post to see what kind of response I get from strangers. That way I’ll know if my dream will just stay that until I hit the lottery or if I should truly start to put things together and get the ball rolling on this dream of mine.

Please know that it has taken a lot for me to put this “out there” publicly. A whole new form of bravery for me to publicly admit to being broken & needing help but also to publicly broadcast my dream. We’ve all probably had dreams “shattered” before, I know I have and it hurts. I imagine when it is in a public forum like say the Internet that it’s even more painful. So if you think it’s totally insane, dumb or a bad idea I do understand and respect your opinion but either send me a message (Facebook or email – email is mjcunnuingham1@comcast.net with why you think it’s unrealistic) Rather than posting negative comments below, I like to keep the comment section constructive and positive. Constructive criticism is definitely appreciated below just not negative.

Thank you and please share this post and tag someone if you and they are comfortable with that – anyone you think would have constructive ideas, or would know ways to support this effort (or finance it hahaha)

Thank You my friends. I’ll leave you, as usual with a song – Called “Things Left undone” by the incredible Paul Thorn. It touches me and makes me really want to realize my dreams of helping people, and live without the regret that I left anything undone. Here are the Lyrics:

Things Left Undone

When your life is over, you’re reaching the end, and
the river of Jordan is around the bend. Will you be
counting all the trophies you’ve won? Or will you look
back on things left undone?


When a stranger came knocking did you let him in?
Was there food on your table for a down and out friend?
Did you hide in the shadows? Did you walk in
the sun? Or do you regret the things left undone?

Somebody you cared for broke your heart. You let
foolish pride keep you apart. Why didn’t you learn how
to forgive someone? So many years passed with things
left undone.

When a stranger came knocking did you let him in?
Was there food on your table for a down and out friend?
Did you hide in the shadows? Did you walk in
the sun? Or do you regret the things left undone?

And   if you’d like please take a moment and listen to the beauty and emotion of this powerful song:

Here was my first participation in the release of a rehabilitated eagle  ( and one of   my  first, not so good, attempts at a youtube video. This release was  a truly life changing event for me that helped release some of my own pain and help rehabilitate me:

Friends, as always I’ll leave you with my mantra – Stay Safe, Be Kind, Keep the Park Clean, Pay it forward, Make a Difference and One Love – http://wp.me/p2RcFA-3Z


12 thoughts on “Dreams

  1. Follow your dreams, Mike . So many of us don’t have the chance. I think you would be a wonderful guide to those people and animals alike that need the help. What a wonderful idea!!! Hugs to you and Christy for her support.
    Love to you both,
    Shelly & David

  2. I think it is a wonderful dream. And I am quite certain you can make it a reality. I have so much to say but I will hold that for a bit. And I will be sharing this with all my friends in the rescue community (not all of us just do dogs, we have wildlife folks too) and with my sister and her connections out in California. Talk soon. I am proud of you my friend. Always have been.

  3. I think this is an amazing idea and I say go for it. Animals are so therapeutic. Helping others is therapeutic. Combining both…helping animals, helping people…helping each other…a perfect circle…a win win idea and dream. I wish I had some ideas to help, none at the moment, but if I think of any, I will be sure to pass them on. If I lived closer, and not across the US, I’d be asking you to let me volunteer there! I say go for your dream. If anyone can do this, you can!

  4. Michael – if there ever was someone who can make this happen it is you! You are continually an inspiration to all who know you – you continually strive to make a difference, in yourself, in wildlife, and in others! I applaud you and think you should GO FOR IT!!!!! You have a huge support group (probably more then you can ever know)! You have touched so many lives and I know you will continue to in the future no matter how you do it! I think this is wonderful!

  5. Michael, I absolutely love your idea. There are many successful organizations that have paired animals and people to help both to heal. One of my favorites is this one http://www.crystalpeaksyouthranch.org/ They have taken in abused horses that they have rehabbed, and then found that these horses are able to reach to young people that no one else can reach sometimes. There are others. I am sure that you can find some to talk to that may give you some advice, insights and other information. It will be a lot of work, for sure, but I think there are many who would be excited about it and would want to be involved in your organization. I certainly know now much just simply watching the Decorah Eagles did for my life, which was then improved even more by my getting into wildlife rehab, ( I just passed my 200 volunteer hours at Portland Audubon so I am now eligible to be trained on working with education birds-woo hoo!) I do understand the frustration of having health issues,especially emotional/mental ones, get in the way of our dreams, but you have many fans and supporters, including me so lean on them in the hard times.

  6. Mike, this would be a massive undertaking. I know you can do it, with all the help, love and support behind you. You dream encompasses more needed tx more individuals and animals than any other I have seen. Go for it, but not at the expense of your health. What a wonderful and generous man you are.

  7. Michael, I love this idea and I love you for coming up with it!!! I agree with what Dawn has said, animals are SO therapeutic, all I have to do is look at my husband and his service dog to know that!!! I think this idea has a TON of potential and I would love to be involved in some small way!!!! I am going to post this and tag Melissa Jarboe who is the Gold Star Widow from Topeka, Ks who is involved the the Military Veterans Project….she might be a good source of ideas, and possible supporters!!!! You GO Mikey!!!!

  8. Michael, I can not say any more then what has been said – Follow your dreams! You can accomplish anything you want, as long as you are willing to work to make it happen! You know you will have our support and I will help in any way possible! I think what you are wanting to do is amazing! NOt only will you be helping wildlife, but to help these men adn women suffering from PTSD is awesome! You know I will be cartwheeling and cheering you on – RAH, RAH, RAH – (that shoudl bring back memories of what can be accomplished with some willpower and determination! YOu ROCK Michael! GO for it!

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