Friday, September 13, 2013

K9s for Warriors

PTSD is an acronym for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. While PTSD might be most associated with military veterans, it can affect anyone who faces a situation larger than themselves. A few examples are car accidents, death of a loved one, robbery, home invasion, working in any type of emergency or medical field, natural disaster... These situation don't have to lead to PTSD, but they can.

They symptoms of PTSD are as varied as the situations that trigger it, but some of the most common include recurring memories, nightmares, sleeplessness, feeling numb, anger, irritability, fear of crowds, a sense of never being safe... Needless to say, this affects both the person afflicted with PTSD, and people around him or her.

Around 7.8% of Americans will experience PTSD at some point in their lives. When it comes to military veterans, around 29% of veterans treated at VA medical centers have a diagnosis of PTSD. That's a big number.

To many of these people, dogs have proven invaluable. Dogs pick up on stuff humans wouldn't notice, and they're good at sensing when they're needed.

Image from veteranstoday.com
For the veterans, there's an organization called K9s for Warriors located in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. They rescue dogs from shelters and train them to be service K9s to military troops and veterans suffering from PTSD.

There are probably more organizations, but this one is on my radar since PlexiDor Pet Doors are based in Florida. If you know of another organization, please tell everyone in the comments!

The dogs are able to provide assistance, for example fetching things for soldiers with physical disabilities. They are also trained to provide personal space for veterans who feel uncomfortable in a crowd. The dogs are taught to "cover and block," that is, to stand between their human and approaching people.

Veteranstoday.com points out that some people who don't feel comfortable in crowds might be able to trust their dog; dogs are great observers of their environment and normally perceive tangible danger before people. If the dog with its keen senses is relaxed, the danger might not be there.

People come in all shapes and sizes, and the service dogs do too. A tall person uncomfortable in crowds might need a taller service dog than a shorter person. Some dogs might be trained differently than others. It's important to match the right dog with the right human!

The training of each dog costs around $10,000, and at the moment, K9s for warriors are completely funded by private donations.

PTSD might not be visible, but it is real. It's not about what's wrong with a person; it's about what happened to a person. If you want to learn more, I recommend A Spouse's Story on Facebook. This is a great community with information, opportunities to discuss, and practical advice. Bec who runs the page is a dog trainer, and writes many useful posts and notes about service dogs and PTSD.

Here are some more good pages:


~ Maria Sadowski ~

4 comments:

  1. This is a great post and I appreciate you bringing awareness. One of the biggest challenges is that there hasn't been a solid study that shows quantitatively (or even qualitatively) how much dogs actually help people with PTSD. While those suffering from PTSD can attest to how important it is to have their dogs, a conclusive study needs to be done. A friend of mine is trying to fund a nationwide study. Should all go well, it will be much easier to get financial support to train dogs to support people with PTSD. I hope this study can open the door for organizations like K9s for Warriors!

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    1. Thank you! You have an excellent point. Isn't it funny that even though people affected by something can testify to the importance of a dog, society as a whole tends to ignore it as long as it can't be quantified. A study like that could be a great leap forward!

      I love the concept of K9s for Warriors. Wouldn't it be wonderful if more shelter dogs could get new lives where they're really loved and needed, and at the same time people afflicted with PTSD could get the help they need!

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  2. Us dogs can help humans in so many situation, I have no doubt we are a great help with PTSD!

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    1. High-paw, Emma! Counting down the days to the release of your book! =D

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