For the men and women coming home from defending their country, the hardships of adapting back to their everyday lives can be more difficult then some may think. While having to suffer through endless tours of duty, soldiers long for a final trip back to what they once remembered as their home. But for many veterans, home can feel like a foggy memory of how life used to be. Feeling like a stranger in the place you once felt most comfortable can be an unbearable burden for someone who has already gone through such turmoil and despair. Studies show that “an estimated one in five veterans deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan since 2001 has or will develop post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression.” Without any true way of relating to these heroes, the average person will find it nearly impossible to come up with a solution to the horror which they now live. Symptoms like flashbacks, upsetting dreams, increased anger or irritability, and anxiety are things that veterans need help to control. And in some cases, the best way of servicing these issues will not come from doctors or medication, but from the most unexpected place: man’s best friend.
Service dogs are used traditionally for blind, deaf or physically disabled patients, but an article in NavyTimes.com explain that they have been trained to perform tasks that can improve PTSD symptoms, such as create a buffer in public places or wake a veteran from a nightmare. These dogs are individually trained to perform tasks for a specific person, surveying darkened rooms, turning on lights, re-orienting their owner during nightmares or flashbacks, detecting anxiety, navigating through crowds, enforcing boundaries for personal space. Golden retrievers and Labrador retrievers are ideal service dog companions for veterans because of their temperament and sociability.
Service dogs evoke a confidence in veterans that they may have lost as a result of their time spent overseas. In addition to the postwar related help they give veterans, dogs also allow for normalcy to be restored to the lives of these men and women. With service dogs, veterans step out of their comfort zone and forget about their troubles, even if just for a moment, and socialize with their community as they try to gain back feelings of comfort.
Funding is still being collected for research to see the impact service dogs have on veterans. Since owning a service dog can be extremely expensive, foundations are attempting to work with other groups in order to get funding for someone they think can benefit from owning these extraordinary pups. The power a dog can have in a person’s life is something that can not be found anywhere else. And for the brave Americans who risked everything for their country, a chance to heal and take back their own lives is something they deserve