— By JIM VINES
Having read and heard of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), many do not realize how prevalent PTSD is among our veterans. More than 20 percent of soldiers returning from the war in Iraq and 11 percent of those who served in Afghanistan are affected, as are 30 percent of veterans across the board, with more than 184 new cases diagnosed daily.
A simple, remarkably low-tech treatment is making a huge difference in the lives of soldiers with PTSD. Assigning trained service dogs to warriors with PTSD is providing these heroes with therapeutic healing and a loyal canine friend, a prescription which has proved extremely effective in treating this condition.
An organization called “K9s for Warriors” is making this possible. This organization goes to shelters to find dogs who would otherwise be put down and trains them to meet “Canine Good Citizen” standards. Once trained, K9s for Warriors pairs each dog to a veteran with PTSD, based on the special needs of each veteran and the particular tasks the dog is most capable of performing.
The results have proven to be remarkable. With the support of their canine friends, veterans with PTSD have been able to resume normal lives and, in some cases, being able to come off all of their medications, while rebuilding relationships with family and loved ones. Service dogs are trained to identify the triggers that cause anxiety attacks that often characterize PTSD.
K9s for Warriors and Animal Fair are currently working together on a “Bark Business” fundraising tour to help raise the approximately $10,000 required to graduate one veteran/canine pair from their program. Animal Fair is a lifestyle magazine for animal lovers and pet owners. Information is available on their website at animalfair.com. The collaborated goal is to raise enough funding for 15 new warrior/service dog pairs. Go to K9sforwarriors.org or call 904-686-1956 to research this program.
The holiday season presents anxiety and depression to our veterans. Keep them close with love and make sure they know how important they are to all of us for their sacrifices.
Speak to you again next week.
Jim Vines is commander of AmVets Post 133.