The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have left us with a new wave of veterans who need our help and care having completed their service to us and our country, and that help and care comes in a variety of ways. Often, it simply means financial assistance in the form of the scholarships and pensions, but in some cases it means helping those veterans to recover from their injuries. For most injuries, the Veterans Administration hospitals are there for those vets, but in some cases the wounds run deeper than the flesh, with many soldiers returning from overseas with PTSD: post-traumatic stress disorder.
A Canine Solution to PTSD
PTSD can be a crippling condition that can make it difficult, if not almost impossible, for a veteran to re-integrate back into normal society. The condition manifests in a number of ways, including aggression, fear, insomnia, confusion, and other mental states that serve to further alienate the returning veteran from the country they fought for. Fortunately, over the years, doctors and therapists have developed a number of tried-and-true methods for treating this condition. Among these methods is a rather surprising but, in the end, very effective helper: dogs!
It may surprise you to learn that dogs have a number of qualities that make them the perfect asset in helping a person to recover from PTSD. We know that dogs are amazing companions already, especially when trained right, and they are already used to help bring comfort and joy to those suffering from illnesses and wounds in hospitals.
It should come as no surprise, then, that given how they already have a positive psychological impact in our lives, that veterans who struggle with PTSD also have a lot to gain from a canine companion. Here are just some of the ways that dogs are so great for PTSD-suffers:
1. Dogs are Ever-Watchful
Dogs have something of a sixth-sense about them, capable of understanding when a real danger is presenting itself as well as when there is nothing to be worried about at all. Yet when you have PTSD, it can sometimes be difficult to assess whether or not you are really in danger; your experiences in the field can sometimes leave an indelible mark of caution, fear, and even paranoia in your psyche. A dog in the room, however, can let you know if your fear is legitimate, or if you should ease your mind.
2. Dogs Understand Hierarchy
Life in the military is rather simple in many respects: the order that the hierarchy of rank imposes on your life makes following and taking and giving orders a simple matter of do – and the danger of the field make sit a matter of do or die, which is similarly rather simple. In civilian life, however, people respond in more complex ways to ultimatums and orders, and that can be difficult to handle for a returning veteran. Dogs, on the other hand, understanding giving and receiving orders and following them without question. For a veteran, a dog is the perfect companion.
3. Dogs Remind You of Trust and Love
Maybe this seems sappy to you, but it is true. A dog can help you to learn to trust by helping you to trust the dog itself. Dogs, after all, will never let you down or betray you. Similarly, dogs bring out simple, straightforward feelings of care, love, and protectorship that can be more difficult to foster and handle with humans. For a returning veteran, the simplicity and straightforwardness of your relationship with your dog is what you need to re-integrate back into society successfully.
+Neil Kilgore believes in the restorative power of a good dog. He regularly blogs about dogs, breeders and puppies on the Greenfield Puppies website.