How Service Dogs Support Our Heroes

It’s been proven by the American Psychological Association that pets have a positive impact on the mental health of all people. Though perhaps not a pet in the traditional sense, a service dog still falls into this category of improving a person’s mental health. While a service dog is there to perform a specific function, their owner is also responsible for the animal’s well-being and care. Service dogs have become a common part of today’s world. They provide assistance to people afflicted with a wide range of diseases, disabilities, and illnesses, from blindness to anxiety. Those afflictions now include the invisible wounds of war our heroes suffer when they serve our country: traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress. Over the last two decades, the number of reported cases of these injuries from conflict has increased significantly. As a result, the necessary treatments have developed as well. Part of those treatments for TBI and PTS now may include the help of a service dog. In honor of September being National Service Dog Month, we’ll share how service dogs help our heroes fighting the war within:

Service Dogs & Post-Traumatic Stress
Post-traumatic stress can have a significant impact on a person’s mental health. Post-traumatic stress can cause anxiety and depression in those affected, just to name a few of the possibly debilitating symptoms. As a result, service members can become fearful of the simplest daily tasks such as leaving the house and running errands. Service dogs provide them a sense of security and protection so they can power through their daily tasks. In addition, a service dog is working around the clock for their owner. One of the troubling effects of PTS can be the nightmares and insomnia. When their owner is having a nightmare, service dogs are trained to help awaken them from it, and disrupt that cycle of terror.

Service Dogs & Traumatic Brain Injury
Depending on the area of the brain affected, mobility and consciousness can be impacted by a traumatic brain injury. In instances where a TBI causes lapses in consciousness, service dogs are trained to stimulate their owner and with a nudge or a lick to return them to consciousness. In addition, after someone sustains a TBI, tasks that used to be simple, such as picking up an item can become a complex process. Service dogs can further assist with the retrieval of an item that’s fallen. Furthermore, they can assist with the process of getting dressed if a person’s traumatic brain injury transforms that act into a complicated sequence of events.

Service dogs represent one piece in the greater puzzle of fighting the war within. For our service members, one large piece of that puzzle is a critical need for facilities to address their invisible wounds of war. The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund addresses this need through our network of Intrepid Spirit Centers. Each center is a satellite to the National Intrepid Center of Excellence, opened in 2010. Eight Intrepid Spirit Centers are now completed and operational at military bases around the country, with twp additional centers planned. Learn more about IFHF’s mission, and how your support can help us heal our heroes.

Posted on September 3 2018 in Blog

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