Therapy Dog: Service Dogs for PTSD

A recent article in The Columbus Dispatch discussed the use of a Therapy Dog for treating PTSD in veterans. The story described the life of Joshua Endicott, a soldier in Afghanistan until he was wounded by a suicide bomber on a motorcycle.

The Columbus resident, who was 20 years old, was left with injuries from head to toe. The soldier was immediately sent back to Washington to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He spent 10 months getting care for his wounds. His physical wounds, that is. After his physical wounds healed, he still said that his emotional scars remained.

Many soldiers who come back from war suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder. Posttraumatic stress disorder can make people scared to ever leave their house again. It was reported that Joshua Endicott says he is constantly stressed and scared to leave his home. He says he never feels safe doing anything anymore.

Apparently, Joshua’s brother-in-law, Jack, was assigned to help Joshua with his emotional wounds. However, Jack could only stay for a couple of months before he needed to leave and return back to his own home. Endicott said that he has nothing now that Jack has left.

For that reason, Joshua Endicott has been researching PTSD and reading about dogs that can help out military personnel. He has learned that dogs often help out people who suffer from PTSD. Joshua Endicott would like to have one of the service dogs for PTSD.

Lieut. Cmdr. Kathleen Watkins, the deputy director for family programs in the behavioral health division of the office of the Surgeon General, says that dogs are helping military personnel around the country. She says the dogs are perfect for PTSD victims because they help with the sense that nothing is safe. Therapy dogs for vets may indeed be the perfect loving and caring companions that Joshua Endicott needs.

Therapy dogs do not stop helping there. Many dogs are used these days to help children, inmates, college students under stress, and many other individuals in need.

The organization, Puppies Behind Bars, began in 1997 as an organization that uses prisoners to train service dogs. Gloria Gilbert, the founder of the organization, says that she has found that the dogs really help the inmates and military personnel cope with their loss or isolation. The dogs can also help people with brain injuries. The organization has also trained guide dogs and dogs that sniff out explosives.

Many PTSD victims are so scared to leave their house because they think there is a sniper following them or a bomb on the bus they are riding. It is a sad thing. PTSD became huge around the civil war with all the cannons. They called it many things back then. Many called it being shell-shocked because of the cannon balls. Many people had to watch their best friends blow up in their faces.

PTSD has been around for thousands of years and will continue to be around. That is a fact. However, there are many things we can do to help the victims of PTSD. Many people find that years of therapy or hypnosis can help. But an even bigger solution that is becoming more and more popular is providing dogs for veterans with PTSD.

The reason many people find that dogs are helpful is because they trust the dog. When the person makes a bond with the dog, they begin to trust it. When the dog following them is normal and happy, so is the person. They no longer think that they are being followed or else the dog would sense it.

While Puppies Behind Bars has around 90 different commands that are taught to the dogs, they have 5 commands that are specific for service dogs for PTSD veterans.

One command is called "got my back." If a veteran is sitting in a public place and a stranger comes up behind him, the trained therapy dog will sit behind the veteran. Due to the trusting bond between the vet with PTSD and the therapy dog, the veteran is calm if the dog is calm.

There is another command called “clear”. If a veteran is fearful of entering a dark room, the dog will go in first, turn on lights, circle the room, and then signal to the PTSD vet that the room is clear.

Joshua Endicott used to enjoy running and swimming, but he no longer feels safe doing it. Many people with PTSD feel this way regarding many different things. They may feel that there is going to be a car that will run them over or someone will strangle them. Most of the paranoias stem from real military simulations. Whether it involves a sniper on a roof or a bomb, the person thinks it will happen to them again or for the first time.

The organization has paired veterans with dogs in 29 states. Endicott said he thinks a dog would ease some of the persistent anxiety he feels and give him an emotional focus to alleviate the stress that is now a steady part of his life.

There's a lot of evidence that he's right …and I, for one, hope he gets one soon!

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