Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a battle that a veteran will fight for the rest of his or her life. For many veterans the fight did not end upon their return home, but rather it has only just begun. Studies show that upward of 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and 30% of Vietnam veterans suffer from PTSD and/or depression. Considering there are roughly 2.7 million Iraq and Afghanistan and 2.6 million Vietnam combat veterans one can see the overwhelming need for help. These veterans live in a new reality with fears not known before. Crowds, loud noises, and things that were once never an issue make it difficult for a veteran with PTSD to even leave his or her home. They live with nightmares and anxiety that causes them to always look over their shoulder. As a result, veteran suicide has increased to an average of 22 per day. Many more struggle with everyday life in a way that ends marriages and causes difficulty maintaining employment.
During their military service veterans experience a unique camaraderie, an unexplainable brotherhood. Men and women serve for a variety of reasons, but one thing is common among them all, they all volunteered to risk their lives to save another. When they return home after their military service they feel a loneliness, a need that was met during their service, the need of a battle buddy, someone willing to lay it all on the line for them every day. Sometimes our nation’s warriors feel forgotten. It is up to our local community to come together and show them that we haven’t forgotten and that we will fight alongside them, that they are not alone.
We at Service Dogs for Patriots recognize this need and seek to help through the use of a PTSD service dog. We pair a veteran with a former shelter dog, unless a dog is already owned and is capable of providing the required service. The veteran starts receiving help from day one as he or she takes part in the training process. During military service soldiers have a mission and that unique camaraderie is built during the training required to accomplish that mission. These shelter dogs need the veterans just as the veterans need them. They train together, forming a special bond and working toward a common goal. The dog learns the needs of the veteran and what to do to help, whether it be waking up the veteran from a bad dream or giving a warning when someone is walking up from behind. The list of what these dogs offer is extensive. They work together to save each other’s lives.
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