Ingenious Program Uses Dogs to Help Veterans

 |  Oct 2nd 2008  |   8 Contributions


I'd like to thank "d.d.", of San Francisco, for sending in an excellent article from the SF Chronicle's website.

The article touches on my all-time favorite subject: the physical and emotional health benefits that people derive from animals. Many of these benefits are well documented. People who have dogs benefit from increased exercise. Petting cats lowers blood pressure. Therapy dogs in children's hospitals make patients want to get well. They also make the work environment more pleasant for nurses. Pets may be able to detect abnormal blood sugar levels in humans with diabetes. The list goes on and on.

Now we can add two new documented ways that animals help people. Dogs may help relieve the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans. They also serve as assistance animals for veterans who have gone through limb amputations.

Here is an excerpt from the article.

A couple of months ago, [Abelardo Rosas] barely spoke to anyone. He was sullen and surly and not responding to treatment at the PTSD clinic at the Veterans Affairs health center in Menlo Park.

Then he met Vegas, a sweet, good-natured golden retriever with a shiny coat and sad eyes.

Rosas had volunteered to participate in a pilot program - veterans at the clinic would train canines to become assistance dogs to aid disabled veterans, those who had lost limbs or are confined to wheelchairs.

The story proceeds to describe how the companionship of Vegas helped Rosas re-gain a sense of balance in life. He also helped the young veteran to feel relevant and helpful again.

[Rick Yount, director of the program] said handling and training dogs is valuable in the treatment of PTSD because the animals help the veterans connect with their emotions. The dogs counteract feelings of isolation. They have to take the dogs out into the community, he said, and other people inevitably want to pet the dogs and talk to the person handling them.

"The dog also reinforces the need to assist someone else," he said. "This is important for a lot of veterans because most of them joined the military to help people."

In my opinion it is an absolutely ingenious program. My hat goes off to everyone involved in it!

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