Dogs play many roles in our families. They can be a loving family member, provide emotional support, and even add comic relief to our lives. Some canines have another important role for veterans and first responders with disabilities: loyal service dog.
The brave men and women who have served our country either in the military or as first responders may have lasting effects or later effects from their service. Between physical and emotional disabilities, including post-traumatic stress, many veterans may experience difficulties readjusting to civilian life. Research indicates that up to 20 percent of deployed military personnel who do not seek treatment suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Assistance dogs can provide important tasks, support, and companionship so veterans can conquer the challenges they face and live independently.
The Different Types of Assistance Dogs
It’s easy to get them mixed up because assistance dogs come in many different forms and have specific responsibilities, but they all perform tasks to help mitigate an individual’s disability and must meet certain standards of behavior. These different tasks may be based on the specific needs of their handler. Disabilities can range from mobility issues to blindness to PTSD.
U.S. Navy medic Joseph Worley, who lost a leg in Iraq, has used his service dogs to help him improve his mobility to point where he does not rely on his wheelchair as much as he once did.
There are many other types of assistance dogs who provide aid to veterans and first responders. These include:
- Guide dogs to find and follow a clear path, maneuver around obstacles, and stop at curbs for people with visual impairments.
- Service dogs to provide counterbalance, retrieve items, open doors, summon assistance, and more.
- PTSD service dogs to help mitigate the symptoms of combat PTSD.
- Facility dogs to assist medical professionals working at VA and military medical centers.
- Seizure response dogs to perform special tasks if their handler has a seizure.
Service Dogs for Veterans Provide Benefits Beyond Physical Support
Service dogs complete many important tasks for their handlers, but the benefits of these fine canines extend beyond just physical assistance. Research has shown that service dogs provide emotional benefits that can greatly improve the mental health of their handlers.
A study completed by the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine found that “compared to individuals (without a service dog), those who had a service dog had significantly better psychosocial health including better emotional, social, and work/school functioning. However, we found that having a service dog was surprisingly not related to other indicators of wellbeing such as anger, sleep quality, or social companionship,” Maggie O’Haire, from the Center for the Human-Animal Bond, said. “These findings help shed light on the fact that having a service dog may impact some areas of life more than others.”
Another Purdue study examined the physiological and psychological impact of service dogs on veterans who specifically suffered from PTSD. According to Psychology Today, “Veterans who had a service dog reported significantly fewer symptoms of PTSD and better scores for psychological well-being, coping skills, and other measures of well-being” in addition to providing support by retrieving items and interrupting night terrors.
Supporting Veterans and Service Dogs
Bill and Jack Kelly, the founders of Bil-Jac, both served in the Army during World War II. Over eight years ago, Bil-Jac was introduced to America’s VetDogs, a non-profit organization that trains and provides assistance dogs to veterans and first responders with disabilities in order to provide enhanced mobility and renewed independence. Bill knew this was a perfect fit with Bil-Jac. Since then, Bil-Jac has been proud to partner with America’s VetDogs, creating America’s VetDogs Treats. Every bag of America’s VetDogs Treats is made with real chicken and is formulated with linoleic acid to help keep your dog’s skin and coat soft and shiny. In addition, every purchase of these treats helps to provide assistance dogs to veterans and first responders with disabilities.
Want to show your support for veterans and their service dogs? Find a store near you that sells America’s VetDogs Treats. Learn more about the America’s VetDogs orgaization on their website. To receive more articles about our furry friends and what we can do to support them, join the Bil-Jac Best Friends Club today.