Skip to comments.How Dogs Can Help Veterans Overcome PTSD
Posted on 08/12/2012 9:02:10 AM PDT by afraidfortherepublic
Going to the movies was the worst: the crowds, the dark, the whispering.
I would constantly be scanning for who was going to come stab me from behind, says Robert Soliz, a 31-year-old former Army Specialist from San Joaquin, California. He was discharged in 2005 after serving in a heavy artillery quick-reaction force in South Baghdad. But fear, anxiety, depression and substance abuse swept into his life, and Soliz became one of 300,000 U.S. veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Isolated, his family deterioratingI couldnt show affection, couldnt hug my kidsSoliz turned to the Palo Alto V.A. Medical Center. One recent morning, he talked about his progress. Hanging from his belt was a container of doggie treats, a link to the treatment he credits with saving his life. Soliz participates in Paws for Purple Hearts, one of four experimental programs nationwide that pair veterans afflicted by PTSD with Labrador and golden retrievers. Launched in 2008 by a social worker named Rick Yount, the program arranges for a veteran to spend six weeks with a dog, training it to be a mobility-assistance animal for a physically disabled veteran.
Its no surprise that a doe-eyed creature like the one at Solizs feet can soothe, but other benefits are less predictable. The animals draw out even the most isolated personality, and having to praise the animals helps traumatized veterans overcome emotional numbness. Teaching the dogs service commands develops a patients ability to communicate, to be assertive but not aggressive, a distinction some struggle with. The dogs can also assuage the hypervigilance common in vets with PTSD. Some participants report they finally got some sleep knowing that a naturally alert soul was standing watch.
Researchers are accumulating evidence that bonding with dogs has biological effects, such as elevated levels of the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin improves trust, the ability to interpret facial expressions, the overcoming of paranoia and other pro-social effectsthe opposite of PTSD symptoms, says Meg Daley Olmert of Baltimore, who works for a program called Warrior Canine Connection.
About 300 vets have participated in these programs, and some graduates who Yount worried wouldnt make it report impressive strides. Congress has commissioned a study, underway in Florida, to assess the effectiveness of canine-caretaking on PTSD.
Soliz says his life is slowly coming back to him. He now can go to the movies without panickingand hug and kiss his two kids.
Robert Soliz, a 31-year-old former Army Specialist, participates in Paws for Purple Hearts, one of four experimental programs nationwide that pair veterans afflicted by PTSD with Labrador and Golden Retrievers.
Video at source.
Golden Retrievers saving the world!
We’ve had a very bad year. My husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and my 15 year old daughter was diagnosed with a movement disorder, dystonia. I already have a daughter with a brain injury.
I think all of us have been depressed and stressed.
I never wanted a dog, but my daughters and my husband did. In April, we adopted a little 9 pound poodle mix.
I’m so glad we adopted her. She has definitely lifted the mood in our house. Everyone (including me) love her.
I think this program sounds like a good idea!!
You’re going through an awful lot, luckystarmom. Prayers for you and your family. I am so happy that your little doggie helps with the mood. Dogs bring so much joy to our life. They ask for so very little in return.
“knowing that a naturally alert soul was standing watch” How can you say it better than this? Our military has been standing watch over us for a long time. Dogs can now stand watch over them and give them peace. They deserve this more than anyone else. God love them.
Great Article. There is no greater healer than a loyal friend that depends on you.
At least it’s not about how they might serve them at the White House.
Dogs are proof that God loves us.
Yes, President Obama says one meal of dog a day will help veterans' health... but "...leave the hide on, that's where all the vitamins and ruffage is!"
Sometimes, as we now all know, being paranoid at the movies is appropriate.
muslims hate dogs. Do the math...
Exactly right. I’ve never understood islam’s appeal. It is what it is.
Sandrat: Are you taking care of the doggie ping list today?
Fuggedibowdit! I see that Joe pinged the list. Sorry to have bothered you.
They sleep peacefully in their trenches because rough dogs stand ready to do violence on their behalf.
Semper Fi, indeed.
Not officialy. I saw the tory about the mother dog rescueing her pups and couldn’t pass it up.
My CFC donation (I work for MCCS) goes to a program that trains service dogs for wounded warriors. I know how much dogs have done for me, so it’s easy to see how much they can do for them. I love this article.
May God heal your family and give you the strength you need.