Life-saving pets: Dogs that help veterans
Pets and People: Page 2
Service dogs are finding a new purpose as companions to veterans sidelined by disabilities, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and traumatic brain injury (TBI). One of the saddest legacies of recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is the number of veterans returning home with PTSD or brain injuries they're unlikely to ever fully recover from. According to Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans (IAVA), more than 200,000 U.S. service members have been diagnosed with a brain injury in the last 10 years, and tens of thousands more suffer from PTSD.
Because the deep psychic wounds of PTSD and the physical symptoms of chronic TBI are invisible, the returning veterans face misunderstanding from their families, disrespect from the general public, and prejudice from potential employers, leaving them isolated, alone, and prone to despair. As a result, the Veterans Administration says, more than 6,500 veterans commit suicide every year -- more than the total number of soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq combined since the wars began.
Trainers who work with guide dogs for the blind quickly realized that service dogs could be of particular use to veterans, and nonprofit organizations have sprung up to train dogs to open doors, fetch and carry, and respond with comfort when a vet experiences a panic attack or flashback.
Takeaway tip: If you or someone you know is a veteran who could benefit from a service dog, contact Pets for Vets, Hero Dogs, VetDogs, Freedom Dogs, or a similar local nonprofit to apply. Some of these organizations, such as Pets for Vets, work specifically with shelter dogs, providing a double service in finding new homes for unwanted dogs.