Veterans see and deal with many traumatic experiences in service of our country. They frequently come home physically and emotionally damaged. The most common emotional challenge vets face is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Vets dealing with PTSD have difficulty readjusting to life away from the battle field. The Veterans Association (VA) believes owning a dog may help alleviate some of the PTSD symptoms vets manage.
New Leashes for Vets and Dogs
According to National Geographic, 11 to 20 percent of vets who served in Afghanistan or Iraq suffer from PTSD each year. Organizations like K9s For Warriors and Paws for Veterans seek to help both homeless pets and traumatized vets by matching them up. The dogs get forever homes and the vets get a companion who helps them heal and readjust. A true win-win.
According to a story on NPR, and the VA’s own website, the VA encourages dog ownership to help with PTSD symptoms, but won’t help pay for their purchase or care due to a lack of evidence surrounding the actual benefits. Veterans, however, tell a different story. They believe that owning a dog trained to help with their PTSD saved their lives. The VA’s own statistics show that 22 vets commit suicide daily – that’s more than 8000 per year. Based on what the vets themselves say, many of these deaths could be prevented with a properly trained dog.
One Vet’s Story
Cole Lyle served overseas in the Marine Corps for six years. He told the Huffington Post about his challenges with PTSD and his newfound passion – thanks in part to his dog Kaya. Lyle was given prescription medications to treat his PTSD and depression upon his return to the U.S., but he felt they only exacerbated his symptoms. After two of his friends killed themselves while on the medications, Lyle decided to drop them – cold turkey.
Instead of seeking alternative chemical assistance, Lyle approached his family and friends for financial support to get a PTSD assistance trained dog. He was matched with Kaya, a German shepherd who Lyle credits with helping him regain control of his life. Lyle is now a college student and advocate for soldier rights, particularly with regard to getting laws passed that make it easier for vets to own a PTSD assistance dog. He’s currently working with lawmakers to pass the PAWS Act.