Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Pet Talk

November 12, 2012

Dogs can be a vet's best friend, too

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 return to civilian life, especially if they have disabilities.

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 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 event.

“They offer emotional support for servicemen and women dealing with combat stress, home-front issues, and sleep disorders,” Rubanick said.

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.

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