Most service members have some kind of pet whether it is a cat, fish, gerbil, or man’s best friend (and best pet) – a dog. Many have pets to have as a companion, to stay active, and for some good entertainment. But many military members and first responders could benefit from having a service dog or therapy dog to help with physical and emotional issues caused from service. If you’ve ever thought dogs were an inferior animal or an unworthy pet, this article will change your mind forever.
Mental Health Service Dogs
One of the most important, but least talked about illnesses attacking our veterans are mental health problems. They are hard to see from simply looking at someone, their arm isn’t broken and they aren’t in a wheelchair, but they still need help. Anyone suffering from PTSD, OCD, panic attacks, anxiety, or many other mental illnesses would benefit from having a mental health service dog. The dogs help (physically) in a number of ways by reminding their owner to take medication, reduce the feeling of being startled by someone coming up from behind them, and help during panic attacks. But, more importantly, they help mentally by creating a sense of security, are there 24/7, and create a sense of purpose, to only name a few.
Since September 11, 2001, over 400,000 veterans have separated with some type of hearing loss or ringing in the ears. This means service members may have a hard time hearing daily conversation but also have trouble hearing doorbells, smoke alarms, or their own baby crying. Animal rescuers will be happy to know that hearing dogs aren’t restricted to the typical service dog breed, like a Golden Retriever or German Shepard. Since all dogs have incredible hearing, the breed is less important. But, temperament and desire to work are still big factors in training and shouldn’t be ignored.
With the increasing amount of disabled veterans, mobility dogs can be a great alternative to live-in care. After months of specialized training and very hard work, dogs can be trained to help owners that are confined to a wheelchair. The dogs can be specifically trained to do almost anything an owner needs, including turning on light switches, paying for items at a store, transferring the owner from their chair to bed, and even tugging off clothing. Mobility dogs must be over 24 months old due to not being able to wear a specific harness any earlier, so there is a considerable wait for these dogs.
Let it be known that therapy dogs should not be thought of as “service animals,” there is a big distinction between the two. Therapy dogs require less training and are not cleared the same way service dogs are. Service dogs can go (basically) anywhere their human can, including on a plane. They can live in a “no pets” apartment and be in restaurants without anyone batting an eye.
Therapy dogs are used after tragic events, at the hospital, in nursing homes, and even at colleges and universities during finals. They are minimally trained compared to working service dogs, but far outshine typical dogs.
You’ll never know how meaningful it is to have a therapy dog around until you need one. After the shooting on the Navy Yard, we had therapy dogs in the building for about two weeks. There were grief counselors in the same building, but the dogs got all of the attention. People fell to their knees after a therapy dog brushed against their leg. Sometimes people need a good cry and a good cuddle from a dog to feel okay.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.