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Veterans and Their Dogs
Decorated Navy Seal Marcus Luttrell was the only survivor of a
2005 mission in Afghanistan. He is considered the "Lone
Survivor" because the mission was the largest loss of life in Seal
history. Upon returning from combat, Luttrell received a
Labrador retriever named D.A.S.Y. to help him cope with the loss of
his teammates. D.A.S.Y., who died in 2009, was an acronym
named after the first letter in the names of Luttrell's fallen
teammates. Dogs can help those veterans who have
psychological and emotional problems, physical disabilities, and
those who need help transitioning back into civilian life. Luttrell
is just one example of veterans receiving help and support from
dogs to help them transition into civilian life and if they have
disabilities upon returning from the military.
Transitioning back into civilian life can be an extremely
stressful situation for many veterans. Dr. Jean Rubanick,
veterinary resident instructor at Texas A&M College of
Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, said these dogs can
help make the switch back to civilian life easier for veterans.
"When a veteran returns from combat they have to transition back
to the civilian world," Rubanick, an Army veterinarian, said. "This
can be very stressful for many of them. When a veteran is
given a dog, they have a partner that they can depend on and
something that depends on them."
Dogs often offer emotional support for the veterans with
problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder, which is common
among veterans after witnessing or experiencing a traumatic
"They offer emotional support for servicemen and women dealing
with combat stress, home front issues, and sleep disorders,"
While people can be judgmental, dogs provide a nonjudgmental
presence for the veteran, allowing them to open up more with the
presence of the dog.
"Veterans and active duty service members are reported to speak
longer and have more meaningful discussions with mental health
professionals when the dogs are present," she added.
These dogs can also be trained to assist wounded warriors by
helping them do tasks such as retrieve items, open and close doors,
and turn off and on lights. Many veterans have nightmares and
can have a dog that is trained to wake them from the dream.
"Some dogs are even trained to recognize when a veteran is going
to have a panic attack or seizure," Rubanick said.
Although some veterans may buy or adopt a dog, there are
numerous nonprofit organizations with missions dedicated to
training and donating dogs to veterans. One nonprofit
organization, Patriot Paws,
described its mission "to train and provide service dogs
of their highest quality at no cost to disabled American
veterans and others with mobile disabilities in order to help
restore their physical and emotional independence."
These nonprofit organizations are always looking for donations and
Veterans are our nation's heroes and these dogs are important in
making their lives a little better and easier. They help our
veterans transition to civilian life, cope with anxieties, and
assist with tasks made difficult by a physical disability.
With Veterans' Day approaching Sunday, remember to thank a veteran
for their service.
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