War Dogs Making it Home

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For America’s military members deployment may mean combat, injury or even death. But for many, the battle does not stop once they return home.

Roughly 20% of the country’s military population suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). According to the Department of Veteran Affairs,  PTSD can occur after someone has been through a personally traumatic event. And for members of our military, deployment can mean continued exposure to traumatic events.

Symptoms of PTSD may include flashbacks, avoiding situations that remind them of the traumatic event, negative changes in beliefs and feelings, and hyper arousal (feeling jittery or always on alert). With help, military members can learn to cope with PTSD and move on with their lives. Therapy and medication are common forms of treatment and symptoms may not disappear completely.

War Dogs Making it Home is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping veterans with PTSD. The organization adopts dogs from animal shelters (especially high-kill shelters) and pairs them with veterans in the program. The vets then train the dogs to become their service animals. The veterans are paired with dogs that fit their specific needs: small dogs are geared more toward individuals who suffer panic attacks, while larger dogs fit well with those who need are more physical.

When asked why dogs are such a good match for veterans, clinical psychologist John Bair did not hesitate:

“Medicine and psychiatry and psychology have been studying love for generations,” he said. “Affective attunement is central to working with anxiety and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. With the help of a rescue dog … there’s calmness, there’s the capacity to take care of oneself and it’s a reciprocal relationship.”

 

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