Sunday, February 26, 2012

Guest Post: Service Dogs Helping Vets Suffering From PTSD

M33 Service Dogs Are Helping Veterans Suffering From PTSD

If you love dogs you already know the many benefits of owning a dog. They serve as companions, and sometimes protectors; and the bond between a dog and his or her owner can be an incredibly strong one. Service members returning from combat often feel stress and have a hard time transitioning back into civilian life. For some, the transition is made even more difficult because of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Therapy dog organizations are getting involved by pairing up service members returning from combat with a therapy dog, and the results are positive.

The range of what the dog will provide for the service member depends largely on the service dog organization and the severity of the service member's PTSD. In some cases, a companion dog is provided simply for emotional support and companionship, in others the dog is officially trained and certified as a service animal. These dogs can be trained to do things like remind the service member to take medications to help with PTSD. 

PTSD sufferers experience issues like memory loss, fear of public places, panic attacks and nightmares. A trained service animal can help a PTSD sufferer get through every day situations by accompanying them in public places, staying between the service member and strangers and also awakening the veteran from a nightmare. Also, these dogs can help with other debilitating terminal medical conditions and can serve as their life line. With a disease like Pericardial Mesothelioma, the dogs can be their loyal friend by their side and reduce their anxiety as long as possible.

One such program is Soldier's Best Friend. This organization aims to help service members returning from combat as well as help dogs. Veterans who enter into this program have the option of training with their own dog if they have a dog who qualifies, or training with a dog that has been rescued from a shelter. Once the dog and the service member are paired up, they will go through training together, where learning and bonding will take place. Service dogs are provided at no cost to the service members. 

Puppies Behind Bars is another service dog program that provides service dogs for veterans. This unique program places puppies in the care of carefully screened inmates. Inmates in this program care for and train the puppies from the age of eight weeks until they are old enough to be tested and begin their lives as service dogs; usually around two years old. Dogs from this program are provided completely free of charge to participating veterans. 

The special bond between dogs and humans, as well as the range of tasks trained service dogs can assist with and are important ones to recognize. Luckily for veterans returning from combat, service dog organizations realize how much help a dog can provide a service member who is suffering from PTSD, and are stepping up to meet this need. 

Kristin Wells is a recent college graduate from The University of Georgia and an aspiring writer. She wants to make a difference in people's lives through her writing. Kristin also likes competitive cycling, running, and traveling as much as possible.


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