Service dog therapy helps hundreds of PTSD-suffering veterans, but hurdles remain
A recent decision by the Veterans Administration confirmed that service dog treatment will remain uncovered for veterans, despite the belief that service dog assistance can help veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The Associated Press reported that the VA’s undefined benefits have led to a “Wild West-type atmosphere” in the service dog industry.
However, although service dog veterans benefits remain an unresolved hot topic within the VA, progress is being made: Hundreds of veterans have already reaped the benefits of service dog therapy. When used to treat PTSD, service dogs bring peace of mind, comfort and security to veterans who may otherwise feel nervous and constantly hyper-aware.
Retired U.S. Air Force major Michael Brank told The Journal that he hadn’t been able to go out to restaurants without experiencing PTSD symptoms. He needed his back against the wall and to be near an exit in order to feel comfortable.
Brank’s service dog, Fallon, helped him deal with these potential PTSD-triggering situations.
“I am able to focus and concentrate on her,” Brank told the source. “She is able to distract the negative interferences. I still feel a level of anxiety, sure. I don’t go from zero to 60 and stay there.”
Brank isn’t the only veteran who has benefited from service dog therapy. Each PTSD sufferer has individual stress triggers. Canine companions are trained to notice potential threatening situations, and respond accordingly.
“For instance, we had a client who had night terrors,” executive director of Freedom Service Dogs Sharon Wilson told The Associated Press. “His dog was taught when he starts getting restless, the dog would turn the light on … then jump in bed and push his body as close as he could. His wife said his breathing would start to mirror the dog’s and he would never wake up.”
Currently, a variety of nonprofit groups cater to the need for service dog therapy. The VA requires that service dogs can only be accredited by Assistance Dogs International or the International Guide Dog Federation. However, numerous mom-and-pop organizations are training dogs themselves, and often employ dogs formerly housed in shelters.
Veterans continue to demand service dog therapy that could help treat their PTSD symptoms. Numerous small non-profits have popped up to fill the niche. Paws and Stripes, a small service dog provider that has matched about 50 veterans with shelter dogs, has a waiting list of more than 600 veterans waiting to be paired with a canine companion.
Photo courtesy Paws and Stripes
Powered by Facebook Comments