Therapy Dogs and Wounded Warriors

In an article relating to wounded warriors, Jen Rodriguez, a writer for Brooke Army Medical Center Public Affairs (Army News Service), writes about a dog trainer named Charlie Brugnola and his wife Sallie of Ft. Sam Houston, TX who adopted a rescue dog named Sweetheart. Sweetheart had been left inside of a burning building to die. Someone noticed her tail wagging slightly and rescued her. A doctor performed a number of skin grafts on her during her recuperation. Now Sweetheart is a part of the Delta Society of San Antonio Chapter Therapy Dog Program. She helps wounded warriors at the Brooke Army Medical Center.

Brugnola says, “In the eyes of the wounded warriors we see a light, a light of determination and tenacity. That light glows when making contact with the eyes of Sweetheart. She looks deep into their eyes conveying a message that only she and the soldier truly comprehend and therein lies the magic; the wonderment; and connection these animals give to humans; the ability to bond and heal in very profound ways – beyond human ability. they share Sweetheart’s survival skills.”

Chaplain Col. Daniel Moll, chief of the BAMC department of Ministry says “There’s a special connection. Pet therapy brings a sense of home normalcy to patients who are in the healing process.”

In an article written by Elizabeth Lorge (2008) she tells about Deuce, a 3 year old chocolate lab and service dog who came to Walter Reed Hospital at the suggestion of Harvey Naranjo who is in charge of adaptive sports and community reintegration programs at the hospital.

Naranjo oversaw a horseback riding program designed to help patients strengthen their core and noticed how the patients interacted with the dogs who hung around the barn. That’s when he requested a therapy dog for the hospital. Deuce runs with the patients. He is their cheerleader, their morale booster, and a member of their team.

Because of the marked progress seen in improved health and mental outlook of so many patients the Walter Reed Program has recommended that an increasing number of patients pursue owning personal service dogs and referred them to service dog organizations.

These dogs change lives. They are loyal companions and helpmates allowing wounded soldiers to regain a quality of life many of them never believed possible,

A wonderful book and a testimony to the life-changing power of these dogs is the subject of "Until Tuesday."

Luis Montalvan, a decorated US Army captain returns from Iraq having suffered physical wounds, a traumatic brain injury and incapacitating post traumatic stress disorder. Cutting himself off from family and friends he begins drinking heavily and becomes despondent. He is united with Tuesday, a service dog with a checkered history of his own. Together they are both able to heal. It is a redemptive story of mutual salvation.

Two dogs were deployed to remote areas of Iraq with combat-stress units to help soldiers relax and give them a little piece of home. Two more dogs have been requested for Afghanistan.

Help For Returning Soldiers With Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and Traumatic Brain Injury

AARP featured an article on it's website about Phoeix Veterinarian John Burnham who saw clients return from Iraq with PTSD and TBI. He saw the value of using psychiatric service dogs to reduce anxiety, panic, fear, and night terrors.

He began a non-profit called Soldier's Best Friend that pairs vets up with canine companion rescue dogs at no charge to the vet.

A PTSD therapist and a dog trainer design programs for vets and their dogs selected from shelters. They work together during the training sessions.