Therapy Dogs Are Bringing Hope To Vets In Need

Military personnel often return from active duty with physical or psychological injuries that are difficult for them to overcome using traditional therapy techniques. Service dogs and therapy dogs can assist veterans in recovering from trauma brought on by combat experience, says the nonprofit organization Veterans Moving Forward. Service dogs are important tools in giving veterans a sense of safety and security as they adjust to civilian life, says Mary Cortani, a veteran who trains dogs to assist other vets.

“Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta and his dog, Bravo” / Via Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

Overcoming PTSD

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, which often afflicts military personnel exposed to combat, can cause nightmares, traumatic flashbacks, negativity, avoidance of social situations and hyperarousal, reports the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Service dogs provide a profoundly calming influence for veterans with PTSD. For instance, after four tours of duty in Iraq, Sgt. Kelsey Smith manifested a number of these symptoms until Veterans Moving Forward paired him with a service dog named Lori. The Golden Retriever sleeps in a bed next to his and is trained to sense when Smith is having a nightmare and to turn on the lights and wake him up. She detects symptoms of his anxiety and helps to calm him.

Therapy Assistants

Service dogs live full-time with veterans and can open and close doors, retrieve and carry items, and warn them of emergency situations. On the other hand, therapy dogs assist professionals such as psychologists, therapeutic recreation specialists, occupation therapists and speech therapists in caring for veterans. Animal assistance in therapy sessions inspires veterans and stimulates recovery and healing.

A therapy dog with the 219th Medical Detachment/ Via Maj. Charles Patterson, Task Force MED-A Public Affairs/Released

For veterans traumatized in combat, the comfort and assistance of service and therapy dogs provide the impetus to aid recovery that traditional professional help does not always impart. The dogs provide the paws-on touch to help heal the veterans’ mental and physical wounds. To help provide veterans with companion dogs, donate to the Veterans Site.

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