animal therapy and PTSD

Maximun…the five pound guard dog
Originally uploaded by jayfherron


Two weeks ago I was invited to attend a therapy session which involved horses. It was with a small group of other survivors-all male….by survivors, I mean survivors of sexual assault.
Out of respect to the others privacy…there is no more to be said.

It was a wonderful morning. The horses we were surrounded by are all specifically chosen as therapy animals…I believe we were the first group of PTSD clients the horses had met-they did not seem to notice,the typical client would be those with physical handicaps. Some do not realize-PTSD is also a physical handicap.
Let me say this-the session was thrilling. We were asked to select our horse-then we were placed in the stall with them…one fellow had never been as close to horses as we were that day.
We were instructed how to touch the animal-how to pet it and hug it,if we so desired.
It was an uplifting experience.

This past week I was allowed to visit Charlotte-my former therapist at the Gainesville VA. We met to discuss my recent advance in my claim for service connected PTSD…the advance being that I succeeded in showing my former time in the U.S.Navy was with a good record,no wrongdoing-and that the officials agree that I was sexually assaulted-thus,my case was won. I am now considered service connected with PTSD.

As I brought Charlotte up to date with all that has happened in the past 15 months since the VA separated us-I mentioned the horse therapy.
We also talked about what was ahead for me-my challenge to change the way other veterans/survivors of ‘military sexual trauma’ will be treated in the years to come. I will continue my fight for a change. I also mentioned I would like to take some college courses-but my fear of buildings may prohibit that desire.
I mentioned that this was a dream that was instilled while I was in the Navy and that I’d love to fulfill that once upon a time ago dream. My thought was that perhaps I could be placed with a companion to help me through the series of classes I might take.
Charlotte told me about ‘service dogs’ that were being trained specifically for PTSD sufferers…service dogs such as those the blind are placed with.
I was thrilled with the idea and after returning home I did a search for the organization that does this work-and called to inquire about the program.

The person I spoke to told me that at this point the dogs were trained and provided to veterans of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan…but promised me she would look through her wealth of resources to find a dog for me.

I learned the dogs are trained by convicts.
What a wonderful thing that must be for those incarcerated-the pleasure of a dog can take away any kind of ugly. Prison is ugly. I also learned that prisoners train the seeing eye dogs. I felt this connection was spiritually sent-the message to me of “yes-this is the direction to go in”. My rapes and mental damage occurred while I was incarcerated in a Navy detention barrack….as the Navy has pointed out-I had done nothing wrong,but wrong was done to me.

My plans now included stepping up my wants for change in how sexually assaulted veterans are treated upon release from military duty and sent into the Veterans Administration.
I have plans on meeting with Congresswoman Ginny Brown-Waite to discuss these needs….I intend to learn more about these service dogs to include them in my challenge to the Veterans Administration-and will request that the Congresswoman also help me facilitate these changes.

I have two dogs. Teensie tiny little things. They are a joy whenever joy is missing-and great pals in between. I cam easily see the aid a service dog could give to a former soldier-or any person with the disability of PTSD. They want nothing but love-and through that love abond can grow confidence in ones self. Believe it as it is so-a dog is a creature of goodness to those whose accept the friendship they offer. I’ve even read that merely petting a dog can reduce high blood pressure. The little ones that share my home even sense my days of being down-they work hard to keep me happy,snuggleing in the bed with me…sometimes being pests-but the truth is,they read our personalities and emotions and feel them too.
I believe in the program to help others through trained creatures.

I will be in touch with the service dog program more as the weeks come-and am going to advocate for this program even before I ever (if ever) recieve a dog of my own…I believe in its theraputic method,I know this is an excellent idea.
As I learn more-I will write about it.

I will say-if you are a veteran of these wars-Iraq and Afganistan…contact the program at 212-680-9562

Tags: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: