In my opinion, psychiatric service dogs are changing the game in terms of helping veterans who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD).
I’m not a psychologist, psychiatrist, or a mental health professional in any way shape or form.
However, after reading numerous success stories from the veterans themselves, you don’t have to be a doctor to see how lifesaving these service dogs are!
For example, Nathan Nail is a 26 yr old retired US Marine Corp vet, did multiple deployments overseas, and one day decided he could no longer continue to suffer.
He loaded his pistol, placed it on his lap and as he was about to raise the gun Rocky (Nathan’s service dog) came up and put his head on his lap.
Nathan said he repeatedly pushed Rocky down but Rocky would not be deterred.
After multiple attempts to shoo Rocky away, Nathan said “I had a moment of clarity” and he realized that taking his own life was NOT the best decision.
Nathan got emotional as he went on to say “I would not be here if it wasn’t for my service dog”.
Paws For Veterans is the organization that helped Nathan and continues to help many other veterans as well.
Additionally, Paws For Veterans uses a really unique business model which rescues shelter dogs, many that will be euthanized, and pairs them with a veteran.
Together the veteran and the dog get trained side by side and learn together, which among other things creates trust and forges a strong bond.
There are many other groups and organizations that have sprung up in the last 10 yrs that use a similar model.
If ever there was a program that deserves National Attention from the media this would be it!
Truly remarkable work by all involved helping our veterans while helping abandoned dogs.
Training tasks include the ability to detect anxiety levels and intervene, wake a person up from a nightmare, putting distance between the vet and other people, finding lost objects such as wallets or keys etc..
One thing is clear, these service dogs are providing our service men/women with the type of assistance and healing they need!
How To Get A Psychiatric Service Dog?
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)/Depression affects at least 20% of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Many find 20% a conservative number especially when considering those numbers do not include returning servicemen/women who have suffered Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI).
When you realize that roughly 2.7 million men/women have served in Iraq, Afghanistan or both, we are talking about a very large number of men and women that continue to suffer the effects of war.
For the veterans that do seek out help, it can still be quite challenging to get in to see a specialist as the VA is overloaded.
It can take months sometimes to get an appointment.
As a veteran myself that doesn’t suffer from PTSD, I can certainly speak on how stressful the process at times can be, so I can’t imagine what it would be like for those dealing with mental health issues.
The good news for many veterans is a lot of organizations are forming with the single goal of helping vets with PTSD find a service dog, or perhaps train their own dog if possible.
Providing an invaluable service to veterans struggling with PTSD, or other mental health issues while saving a dog’s life is the biggest Win Win scenario possible!
Below are a few amazing groups that all incorporate shelter dogs as part of their programs.
In addition, I would like to encourage all who read this to consider making a donation to at least one of these great organizations if it at all possible.
They are all truly doing amazing work to help our veterans while saving beloved companion animals from confinement and in many cases certain death.
For what our servicemen/women have done for us, donating a few dollars to a more than worthy cause, would at the very least make more service dogs available to veterans, and others in need.
Most would agree on the few small sacrifices which we all could make, to free up a couple of bucks to donate, pales in comparison to the sacrifices of our brave men and women.
Many who have literally sacrificed life and limb in the fight for freedom!
Sometimes the cost of war can be forgotten, but let’s NOT forget those that continue to fight for our servicemen and women…
What disabilities qualify for a service dog?
The ADA or Americans with Disabilities Act is the law that determines who is eligible for a service dog.
Under the ADA a person is considered disable if they:
- Have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities;
- Have a record of such an impairment, or are regarded as having such an impairment.
There are different qualified disabilities for different types of “service” animals.
For instance, there are therapy dogs, emotional support animals, all of which have certain criteria that must be met.
If you are considering getting a service dog I strongly suggest you visit the ADA website.
It is important to note that to legally qualify for a psychiatric service dog, a licensed therapist must determine that a PSD is needed to perform certain tasks that the person is unable to perform himself or herself.
The best advice would be to always check with the ADA first before starting the process of looking for a service dog.
It really gives me hope to see so many groups popping up that are dedicated to helping our Hero’s, many who continue to pay the price for our freedom.
In doing so these amazing organizations are bringing contrast to the darkness, by saving our soldiers and saving a dog from certain death.
In a world overrun with violence, it is fair to say that amid the chaos lies a bright and shining light..
No measure of abuse or violence can put out this light..
This light can only be extinguished by death itself..
The light I speak of, is of course, the glowing, selfless light that lives within the heart and soul of all dogs.
By saving these amazing dogs from certain death, the dogs, in turn, pay it forward in the form of saving our Freedom Fighters…
This article is dedicated to all of our veterans who sacrificed so much…Thank You!
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