Man’s best friend proves to have healing powers for veterans suffering from PTSD

The relationship between human beings and their dogs is, in a word, indescribable. The feelings we have for our dogs, and the unadulterated joy and unconditional love they bring into our lives, is something we are all the better for. Recently, more and more groups whose mission it is to help returning veterans deal with issues such as post traumatic stress disorder have found that man’s best friend can be a great healer as well.

The number of groups that are using dogs in order to help veterans with PTSD is growing, and in instances where dogs become companions for these veterans, everyone is a winner. One such group is The Guardians of Rescue, and animal rescue organization whose Paws of War Program is pairing rescue dogs that need a home with military veterans who need a companion. In addition to finding dogs home with veterans, the group also makes certain that food and medical bills for the animals are covered.

Another group doing great work is Paws for Purple Hearts. The group places dogs with disabled veterans free of charge. First, however, the dogs need to be trained, and it is here that a genius idea took hold. The organization decided to use veterans suffering from PTSD as service dog trainers, and magic started to happen.

Those suffering from PTSD often become emotionally numb and isolated. There is no room for either, however, when training service dogs. Soldiers must appear happy when a dog excels in its training. At the same time they must reassure dogs that they are safe in loud, foreign situations like busy streets, large crowds or around a backfiring car. Of course we all know how a dog can attract attention from others, and in such situations soldiers acting as trainers are forced to interact rather than remaining isolated from others.

Throughout the training process soldiers are constantly praising and reassuring their service dogs. As they do so, these solder/trainers begin to become reassured themselves. They begin to reengage their emotions and with those around them, and to venture, out of necessity, into physical and emotional areas that their PTSD had shut them off from.

As programs such as Paws of War and Paws for Purple Hearts continue to grow, the healing that is taking place grows as well. In the process, the magic of man’s best friend is revealed to us once again, and canine friendships provide a healing salve for those suffering from PTSD.