4.17.2010

the scars of war, the healing power of animals

Several people sent me this story. Could it have any more relevance to my interests? I guess the dogs could read Dickens or Orwell while attending library school.

Here's to the day we stop creating new cases of PTSD from sending people to war. Until then, innovative programs like this deserve our time and attention. As always, cheers to Senator Al Franken, leading the way on this important piece.

Click through for pics!
Just weeks after Chris Goehner, 25, an Iraq war veteran, got a dog, he was able to cut in half the dose of anxiety and sleep medications he took for post-traumatic stress disorder. The night terrors and suicidal thoughts that kept him awake for days on end ceased.

Aaron Ellis, 29, another Iraq veteran with the stress disorder, scrapped his medications entirely soon after getting a dog — and set foot in a grocery store for the first time in three years.

The dogs to whom they credit their improved health are not just pets. Rather, they are psychiatric service dogs specially trained to help traumatized veterans leave the battlefield behind as they reintegrate into society.

Because of stories like these, the federal government, not usually at the forefront of alternative medical treatments, is spending several million dollars to study whether scientific research supports anecdotal reports that the dogs might speed recovery from the psychological wounds of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In dozens of interviews, veterans and their therapists reported drastic reductions in P.T.S.D. symptoms and in reliance on medication after receiving a service dog.

Veterans rely on their dogs to gauge the safety of their surroundings, allowing them to venture into public places without constantly scanning for snipers, hidden bombs and other dangers lurking in the minds of those with the disorder.

In August, Jacob Hyde got his service dog, Mya, from Puppies Behind Bars, a program based in New York State that uses prisoners to raise and train dogs for lives of service. The organization has placed 23 dogs with veterans with P.T.S.D. in the last two years, training them to obey 87 different commands.

“If I didn’t have legs, I would have to crawl around,” said Mr. Hyde, 25. “If I didn’t have Mya, I wouldn’t be able to leave the house.” . . .

More here, with photos.

1 comment:

Dharma Seeker said...

I am a BIG believe in the healing powers of animals. I take Kiera and Chelsea to visit my Nan in the nursing home quite often, and it really brightens her spirit - truly awesome b/c she was never really a "dog" person before Chelsea. PM has also expanded its mandate to provide long term assistance to seniors and persons with disabilities on a fixed income because pet companionship is so benficial in so many ways. Great post Laura.