Therapy Dog Program
Major, Milania’s & Sophia's Mission is volunteering their time to returning military vets, police, fire and EMS suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other medical and emotional disabilities.
Therapy Dog Program
Working in public safety has always been a demanding profession and indeed there is a considerable range of duties and responsibilities that comes with the territory when one takes the oath to serve and protect. Public Safety officers deal with individuals from all walks of life in their uphill battle and can experience more trauma in one day then most would experience in a lifetime.
A recent article by Bill Briggs, NBC News Contributor stated that “through April, the U.S. military has recorded 161 potential suicides in 2013 among active-duty troops, reservists and National Guard members — a pace of one suicide about every 18 hours. The Army, the largest contingent of the armed forces, sustained 109 reported suicides during the first four months”.
Military veterans are returning home from war with far more than they brought with them. Many are experiencing medical, emotional and mental health related issues as a result of long-exposure to combat. Increases in Traumatic Brain Injury, (TBI) Posttraumatic Stress Syndrome, (PTSD) suicides, family dysfunction and other stress related disorders have been reported.
Although various resources exist to assist our public safety officers and veterans, many are reluctant to reach out perhaps due to their depression or the inability to access such resources. In order to assist them better, different forms of therapy could be incorporated into their daily routine to acclimate toward better enrichment in their lives. One form of therapy that has been proven effective is the use of therapy dogs.
When it comes to our police, fire, EMS and military veterans, dogs have truly proven to be man’s best friend. Therapists have found that therapy dogs’ unconditional love can help even the most isolated and antisocial veterans open up to friends, family and potential resources. During daily interactions, dogs have also shown uncanny abilities to recognize who may be feeling too anxious to participate. The presence of a therapy dog has helped facilitate amazing personal breakthroughs in these interactions. Not to mention, petting and playing with dogs has been especially helpful for depressed veterans to feel calm and ready to confront their everyday activities.
Therapy dogs have been particularly helpful in treating veterans. Veterans often feel isolated and out of touch with the world. They may not know how to interact with their peers, they fear judgment and criticism, and they may be weary around their usual social circles due to fear of stigma associated with their disability(s). They often distrust as well. The companionship of therapy dogs can make veterans feel that they have friends to fall back on if others start to judge or belittle them – a feeling which has been essential in helping them connect with their family, friends and resources. Psychologists found that these animals encouraged socialization and openness among people who were previously shut-off and unwilling to communicate with their counselors or peers.
There is no doubt that veterans can be helped immensely by spending time with other beings who will give them unconditional acceptance and love. But because animal-assisting therapy alters the focus of the relationship between human and non-human, this can bring extra benefits that working with animals in general may not always offer. There is something deeply satisfying about being able to help creatures who need us so badly and pair them up with a veteran in need. Those who work in shelters or at other rescue facilities caring for animals with sad histories end up feeling uplifted and empowered in ways that touch them profoundly and deeply.
In the media today you read/hear more articles of today’s military and the power behind having a service animal to walk side by side with our returning veterans. When it comes right down to it, something as simple as a dog that can produce less stress and happiness and the feeling of safety for a veteran, why would you say no? If a veteran can show even a 50% turnaround from our program, isn’t this better then medications or long drawn out medical expenses? For many this means everything!
The misconception of our veterans today is that if you’re walking and talking, then NOTHING is wrong. The reality is PTSD/TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) is better known as the silent injury. What does this exactly mean for those who have no idea? TBI or PTSD you cannot see in a veteran. The community misconception is also “Why do you have or need a service dog?” Would you question an individual who is wheelchair bound? No! Many in the community also have no idea of the awareness, the dos and don’ts with service dogs. It is our job as the veteran organization to educate our community and bring further awareness.
By creating a new therapeutic program utilizing dogs for therapy for our public safety officers and veterans or helping to train and certify a service dog, we can fulfill a need while offering and/or linking them up to other professional resources available within our community.
We are seeing more and more involvement using therapy dogs in our community with the recent opening of “Freedom House” located in Sanborn, NY. Freedom House is an intense inpatient residential treatment program dedicated to provide specialized addiction and mental health treatment for our veterans. One of their main therapists is a young golden retriever named “Dakota” that was donated to the program to be trained as their in-house therapy dog.