An organization is having veterans train service dogs while they heal from post traumatic stress disorder.
In a striking statistic, between 11 and 20 percent of Iraqi Freedom veterans suffer from PTSD. In honor of National Service Dog month, Spectrum News reported about Operation at Ease. The program has veterans train their own service dogs to mitigate the effects of PTSD.
“Post-traumatic stress, it just wraps around you and it lies,” says Operation Ease Founder Joni Bonilla told the outlet. “It tells you that you’re not going to have a normal life again, that you can’t do what you did before and I just feel that little by little we take those lies away.”
The best part? The dogs are rescues and the veterans work with trainers to make them service dogs. Some of the participants were hesitant surrounding the stigma of a service animal. One veteran, Robert Odell, initially backed out but is now training with his dog Benny for six months. In the beginning, he thought Benny was untrainable.” The pooch proved him wrong.
Bonilla said that the dogs have changed their lives. Odell now can sleep soundly with his service dog. The bond is more than a friend or family member, it is an extension of the person and is truly a lifesaver.
“I’m happy that I actually went through it and got him, because it’s been a big help for me. It’s probably the best year I’ve had in a long time,” Odell admitted.
What’s The Difference Between Emotional Support, Therapy, and Service Dogs?
You’ve probably heard of emotional support, therapy, and service dogs before. There’s a big difference between the three. An emotional support dog is a dog that needs no training and is there to solely provide emotional support for its owner. A mental health professional has to write a note that the dog comforts the owner. The only right an emotional support dog has is to live in a non-pet-friendly place, which doesn’t always apply.
Secondly, a therapy dog first has to undergo assessments to make sure that he or she is a candidate. If the dog has any behavior problems like aggression, it can not be a therapy dog. A therapy dog provides psychological or physiological therapy to people other than their handlers. They typically visit hospitals, schools, hospices, nursing homes, among other places. People are encouraged to pet the dogs.
These dogs have stable temperaments and friendly, easy-going personalities. Typically, they visit hospitals, schools, hospices, nursing homes, and more. You often find these dogs in courtrooms to help victims. Unlike service dogs, therapy dogs are encouraged to interact with a variety of people while they are on-duty including petting the therapy dog.
Service Dog 101
Finally, a service dog requires the most extensive training that lasts between 1.5-3 years. These elite dogs have to be desensitized from an early age and the majority of potential dogs will flush out. The pooches undergo a public access test to prove their training and capabilities.
A service dog is a task-trained service dog to provide a service for a person with a disability to mitigate it. This includes alerting before medical events occur like seizures, heart problems, guide dogs for the blind, etc. They can also respond to medical episodes like bringing medicine or deep pressure therapy.
When it comes to the public, they can not interact with service dogs unless told by their owners. A person commits a felony if they interfere with a service dog (pet, trying to distract) or claims that an untrained dog is a service dog. The only other animal legally allowed to be a service animal is a miniature horse.