As veterans return home from service they often are dealing with physical and “invisible” injuries that may wreak havoc on their lives. These “invisible” injuries may include a traumatic brain injury (TBI), depression, sleep disorders, fear, PTSD and other associated symptoms.
Many have discovered service dogs have a transformative effect on their lives, allowing them to live more independently and integrate more easily into their communities.
Service dogs are different than emotional support animals or therapy dogs. Service dogs undergo a comprehensive 18-month training and only the best of the best complete the training. These dogs are taught the four foundations of service dog training tasks; push, tug, brace and retrieval. There are over 200 tasks that can be trained based on these foundations. Once a veteran is matched with a dog, instructors customize their training with each dog in order to meet that specific veteran’s needs. Tasks may include picking up dropped items, opening doors, turning lights on and off, retrieving object, nightmare interruption, responding to sounds for veterans who have hearing loss and assistance with mobility.
Numerous veterans have reported that having a service dog has saved their lives. According to a recent Purdue study, “veterans who had a service dog reported significantly fewer symptoms of PTSD and better scores for psychological well-being, coping skills, and other measures of well-being.” The study also found lower levels of anger and better sleep.
In addition, service dogs help to ease the burden on family members, allowing the veteran to live more independently. Service dogs have allowed many veterans to engage in increased social interactions, build better relationships, and to get involved in their communities.
For more than 15 years, the Veteran’s Administration has covered veterinary care for service dogs that assist veterans with physical disabilities, yet it has declined to do that for PTSD service dogs. Options for our veterans with PTSD are currently only limited to counseling and medication. Veterans with service dogs have seen similar benefits for treatment of PTSD and other disabilities, without the harmful side effects and long-term costs of medications.
The Dogtopia team is fully committed to funding training and placing service dogs with veterans returning home with physical and emotional challenges. Last year, our team raised more than $140,000 in support of America’s VetDogs.
In 2019, we look forward to continuing to support these types of programs that positively impact our veterans. Whether you use Dogtopia daycare or not, we urge you to consider contributing to this important cause and to help us in making a difference in the lives of veterans everywhere.