Thursday, September 30, 2010


PREVENTION MAGAZINE indicated in a recent article that "pets can reduce your use of meds. New research shows that owning an animal is an even more powerful way to cultivate calm than previously thought. An astonishing 82% of PTSD patients paired with a service dog reported a significant reduction in symptoms, and 40% were able to decrease their medications, in an ongoing study at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

The specially trained pooches can sense, before their owners do, when a panic attack is coming, and then give them a nudge to start some preemptive deep breathing. "While we don't yet understand why, we know the dogs' presence affects serotonin levels and the immune system," says lead study researcher Craig Love, PhD. "The animals are so helpful, one soldier named her dog Paxil."

As I read this, I was somewhat startled at information I have known all along.  Perhaps startled because someone else 'gets' it too - finally!  Dogs helping to heal invisible wounds.  Mine always have, so why is this a surprise? As one warrior with PTSD told me in reference to his dog, "This is the hardest, best thing I ever had.  My dog makes me smile when I don't want to." I recalled a quote from Ecclesiastes, "A faithful friend is the medicine of life." 

As the warriors with PTSD pass through my days, I understand.  To be witness to their dogs' intentional motivation of loving and being loved, it isn't difficult to grasp.  The responses of the courageous young men and women to their dogs is overpowering.  These are guys and gals who laid their lives on the line, who took the bullets, who fought the fight, and paid the price.  Yet in the presence of their dog, they turn into children with their first puppy.  They have connected to something greater than themselves.  For in just a single moment, that cannot be explained, they feel safe, loved, and not so empty or lost.

Dogs touch hearts in a way that defies all logical explanation.  And yet somehow it is explained clearly.  Tom Davis in "Why Dogs Do That" says, "There are no strings attached, no riders, or special stipulations; there's no fine print, no expiration date, no statute of limitations.  They (dogs) love to a depth and degree that few of us, I fear, reciprocate."

Sometimes for a wounded warrior with his or her dog hope appears.  It appears to give them courage, to do that thing that makes them afraid.

I find myself remembering my time with the warriors with PTSD in snapshot like moments.  Struggles, tears, fears, courage, and smiles are often too powerful to fully comprehend.  They are forceful, strong, intense, turbulent and ardent snapshots, never to be forgotten or taken for granted.

As I asked one soldier how he was doing, he said from a place deep within his heart and with great purpose and overwhelming simplicity, "Just fine now that 'Kelsie' is here." With a dog by their sides those mountains aren't quite as hard to climb.  With a dog by their sides working to get back up after circumstances have kicked them down, whether physical or mental, there may just be times when they, as we all, have to learn to crawl again, one step at a time. 

The wounds our warriors have will become a part of who they are.  It is those who are courageous that will become victorious; those who press forward, often one grueling step at a time.  They will be blessed to find they are stronger, more compassionate, more loving, more understanding, more giving and in the end will receive more than they ever imagined.  So if a dog named "Paxil," with intuitive and endearing ways, provides a bit of hope and help in whatever mystical way he does...who am I to question it?


"Just living is not enough.  One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower."

~Hans Christian Anderson



A tax deductible donation of one thousand dollars will sponsor a dog team. 
It will make a difference and it will change a life.
100% of the donation goes directly to provide a dog for a wounded warror.


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