Every dog lover knows pups make great companions. You may have even met a service dog or two along the way. But you may not know that some of these dogs can help returning veterans with PTSD.
Post traumatic stress syndrome is a what the American Psychiatric Association calls a “psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event.”
While the PTSD designation has a wide application, in this post, we’ll focus on the service dogs who help returning veterans re-integrate into civilian life.
Returning Veterans Face Unique Challenges
It’s no secret that veterans return from tours of duty with deep emotional concerns like PTSD. PTSD can make it difficult to sleep or even engage in everyday activities like going to the grocery store.
One way to help is with a trained service dog. Many people say just having a dog gives them a sense of purpose since the dog needs to be walked and fed every day. As a pet lover, you can appreciate these gifts.
Of course, a specially trained dog offers love, companionship, and a sense of purpose but they also can also do much more.
A few things service dogs can do include:
- Turning on the lights in case of night terrors (and waking up the person)
- Retrieving medicines
- Intervening when the handler experiences a sensory overload
There are many service dog organizations that pair veterans with canine companions but K9s for Warriors is different in that they rescue dogs primarily from high kill shelters around the country so the rescue is two-fold. The dog rescues the person and the person rescues the dog. When the veteran is paired with them, they spend 3 weeks together bonding and training at a designated facility.
That way, when the veteran returns home, he or she, has a solid connection with his or her dog and understands how to work with them.
According to the K9’s for Warriors website, “Our focus is on healing – helping the veteran and paired service dog build a bond to facilitate healing and recovery. As the healing takes place, the reintegration to society begins.”
Skilled service dogs can recognize the symptoms of PTSD and comfort their person. As you know, nothing says “you’re loved” quite like a cold nose nuzzling you.
The Special Traits of Service Dogs
Service dogs like these have special characteristics. They need to be smart and trainable. They need to have a calm demeanor and be unshakeable in any circumstances. They’re also expected to accompany their person to the grocery store, restaurants, anywhere their person goes.
Each organization has different requirements for service dogs and who’s eligible to be paired with one. If you know someone who’s interested in finding out more, then they’ll want to talk with organizations like K9’s for Warriors or Patriot Paws.
This June 27th let’s celebrate these trusted canines and the people they support.