With their calm candor, warm spirit and desire to please, dogs have a special way of bringing immense joy to our lives. The joyful exuberance of our four-legged friends seem to always cheer us up, but can a dog save a life? At Believet Canine Service Providers, they have found that service dogs provide immense comfort and support to Veterans suffering with PTSD. Since 2015, Sam Daly and the team at Believet have been training service dogs for military service members suffering with combat-related injuries and disabilities. More than simply a pet, these animals provide crucial services to Veterans to help them seamlessly re-adjust to the normal world at home.
NOT ALL WOUNDS ARE VISIBLE
After serving in the most emotionally and physically extreme environments imaginable, these Veterans are not the same person when they come home. Returning to an unfamiliar world where even the grocery store can be an obstacle, simply being around crowds can spur anxiety and panic attacks. Many of these struggling Veterans are looking for a solution to post-traumatic stress but often feel that Veterans Affairs doesn’t have answers for them. They want help, not just another pill. Instead of being dependent on medications, these service animals provide a non-drug therapy that help Veterans improve their lives and be able to cope with situations when anxiety kicks in.
Service dogs accompany their Veterans anywhere the general public are allowed, including supermarkets, restaurants and places of entertainment, among many others. From nightmare interruption to lessening anxiety, well-trained service dogs can provide Veterans living with PTSD wide-ranging help that can allow them to return to a better adjusted life.
Haunted by an overwhelming fear of imminent danger, many Veterans experience traumatic life-threatening dreams. One of the most requested skills is nightmare interruption. The dogs are specifically trained to react when their partners are having nightmares by turning on a light and pulling off the blankets to wake them up, gently alleviating night terrors. They are also trained to rest their heads firmly in their partner’s lap during times of anxiety to provide instant calm and relief. The dog acts in a way that lets their partner know that everything is going to be okay; no matter what’s going on in that moment, the dog is there for you… you’ve got this.
SAVING TWO LIVES AT ONCE
Believet provides these highly-skilled assistance dogs, free of charge, to disabled Veterans. The organization plays a critical role in not only training and preparing the dogs, but also matching and partnering Veterans with dogs and providing ongoing support afterwards. All of the animals in the program have been rescued and adopted from shelters, meaning that two lives are saved—not just the Veteran, but also the dog.
The Veterans Administration approximates 20% of Veterans experience symptoms of PTSD which means there are roughly 20,000 Veterans with PTSD within a 250 mile radius of Believet’s facility in Northfield, MN. Despite the growing body of research and anecdotal evidence that supports the value and benefits of these animals, the government and insurance companies will not cover the cost. Believet has a goal to match 20-25 dogs with Veterans each year, and as a non-profit, they rely on the generosity of others to continue functioning. While it costs around $30,000 to train each service dog, the impact it has on the Veteran’s life is absolutely priceless. These brave Veterans have served our country and now it’s our turn to serve them. Along with their faithful four-legged battle buddy, the battle scars of these Veterans finally have a chance to heal.
For more information about Believet and how to donate, visit www.believet.org.