The Team at Big Paws Canine knows firsthand what the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can have on not only the afflicted veteran, but that veteran’s entire family as well. By placing service dogs with our service members who suffer from PTSD, we have seen an increase in the veterans’ quality of life that you cannot get from medication alone. We do not claim to be Doctors or Counselors for mental health, but what we can tell you is that service dogs work.
To have a better understanding about PTSD you must understand that the disorder can have catastrophic results on an individual and we are losing a huge number of Veterans who feel the only end to the pain is to take their own life. Statistics from an MSNBC study tell us that for every Service Member who is killed in combat, 20 are taking their own life. To further complicate the problem, 1/3 of our Military Members who separate from service are unemployed because they cannot find sustainable employment.
To explain the effects of PTSD that our Service Members are facing, there are three main groupings. With less severe forms of PTSD, a person may avoid or be numb to the disorder or events which caused the condition. They will avoid discussing events, have emotional numbness or not want to participate in activities that they have enjoyed in the past. With those who suffer from a moderate form of PTSD, a person may have intrusive memories which could include flashbacks or disturbing nightmares. The most severe form of PTSD includes anxiety and depression. A person may show signs of anger or irritability with feelings of guilt and shame after episodes. This stage also includes being startled easily. Severe PTSD may lead to substance abuse or destructive behavior with extreme cases displaying suicidal or even violent acts.
How can a service dog can help those suffering from such a destructive disorder? There has been much research verifying that dogs have a calming effect on humans. Some studies show that people with dogs have lower blood pressure, cholesterol levels and live longer and healthier lives. What we have seen with our service dogs has been unbelievable. We have had service members who are petrified to walk on any soft surfaces such as grass or dirt due to fear of Improvised Explosive Devices (IED’s). In the company of their service dog, they have been able to walk on these surfaces without the fear they had on their own.
Because Big Paws Canine is run, owned and operated by former and Active Duty Military Members, we have a solid understanding of the causes and effects of this disorder. We specifically train our dogs to perform tasks and do work for individuals who suffer from PTSD and other related mental health disorders associated with PTSD. We change lives every day.
Unfortunately, in September of 2012, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) filed a 67-page draft of rules with the Federal Register. This draft eliminated assistance to Veterans who are in need of Service Dogs for PTSD and other mental disorders. This reckless behavior by VA makes it almost impossible for our Disabled Veterans to obtain a Service Dog for PTSD concerns without spending tens of thousands dollars. The VA cited a lack of sufficient research in order to support the use of Service Dogs for those who suffer from PTSD and other related mental disorders. Big Paws Canine Foundation, Inc. is currently applying for grants to provide the critical information the VA and other health management services need in order to provide the support to our Disabled Veterans.
Big Paws Canine Foundation, Inc. operates entirely on donations and sponsorships to provide the financial assistance for these veterans. Big Paws Canine Foundation, Inc. conducts fundraisers throughout the year in order to assist veterans with training costs, dog food, veterinary expenses, kennels, training equipment, leashes, harnesses, transportation, dog safe toys and many other areas. In 2012, Big Paws Canine was able train 17 service dogs for our veterans. With an increase in donations and sponsorships, Big Paws Canine’s goal is to increase their availability and expand operations to assist more veterans in 2013.
Originally published February 23, 2013.