Today we are losing more veterans from suicide than combat. According to the Dept. of Veterans Affairs each day 22 veterans take their own life. Of the 2 million veterans who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan over 700,000 are suffering from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression or Traumatic Brain injury (TBI). Two thirds of those diagnosed are not receiving treatment. PTSD is characterized by re-experiencing sleeplessness, intrusive memories, hyper-arousal or heightened vigilance, anxiety and numbing or avoidance in relationships. TBI has become the signature wound of the Iraq war. This can cause a downward spiral of apathy, unemployment, broken relationships, addiction and depression. PTSD and TBI may manifest right away or show up months or even years later.
Assistance dogs provide comfort, support, independence and service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. In addition, they are a source of much needed enjoyment as beloved "family members" - running with children and providing comfort for spouses. They have proven to be unparalleled tools in helping our service men and women recovering from an array of horrible injuries. From spinal injury to brain damage to blindness and the dreaded, and all too common, PTSD, assistance dogs are allowing veterans to return to not just a normal life, but also a happy and healthy life.
The impact that our dogs have on life of a disabled hero includes the remediation of the core-symptoms of PTSD such as flashbacks, avoidance, and hyper arousal, as well as decreasing the need for pain and sleep medication and improved communication skills, self-esteem, patience and well-being and independence.
Our recipients report that the impact of their dog reaches 10 to 20 additional individuals. The purpose of the program is to empower veterans and active military personnel to restore their own independence, build confidence and decrease feelings of isolation and other debilitating symptoms associated with PTSD. Our vision is to see that the every disabled veteran who needs a dog gets one and become a part of society again through improved relationships both at home, at work and in the community.
The number of individuals that have been helped by our program is well beyond the number of dogs for which we’ve sponsored training. One assistance dog not only significantly improves the quality of life for the intended recipient; they also serve a similar function to the family and friends of the recipient in many ways. Not the least of which is having their loved one happier and healthier. Facility therapy dogs have touched countless numbers of people. Lives and relationships have been saved and families kept together because of these miracles on four legs.