How Dogs Can Help Veterans with PTSD

Michele Morel became a district judge in Hahnville, Louisiana, in 2012. In her time away from work Michele Morel engages in animal rescue work. She also helps her husband as he trains service dogs to help war veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In recent years research has shown that having a canine companion can greatly ease the troubles of individuals living with PTSD, a condition affecting more than 300,000 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. PTSD can be experienced in a number of ways, though is often characterized by sudden paranoia and fear for inexplicable reasons in relatively secure, comfortable settings. Symptoms of the condition can also be brought about by loud noises and crowded spaces, and many veterans soon find themselves isolated from family and friends, increasingly unable to engage or demonstrate affection with others.

Several national programs have been established using dogs as a treatment for certain symptoms of PTSD. Paws for Purple Hearts, for example, partners a veteran and a dog for six weeks. During that time, the veteran is tasked with training the animal for certification as a service dog. Not only do the lovable canines help PTSD veterans to outwardly exhibit affection; the vets find themselves charged with various responsibilities and a routine to follow. Veterans working with dogs have also dealt more effectively with problems like hypervigilance and aggression, and have developed more normal sleep patterns.

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