Puppies deployed: Vets training ‘Heeling Heroes’ for those with PTSD

Five squirming puppies are about to be deployed on a special mission — joining five veterans hand-picked for the job.

In what is believed to be the first such Veterans Affairs program, residential veterans at the Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center will raise and help teach shelter puppies to become psychiatric service dogs.

Once trained, the dogs will become companions for outpatient veterans battling post traumatic stress disorder.

“Even though the program sounds warm and fuzzy, it has a mental health significance and component to it,” stressed Dahna Dow Osmus, creator of the innovative Heeling Heroes effort. She’s a lead case manager and mental health therapist at the center in White City.

“For all of us who have raised puppies, we know that it requires delayed gratification, anger management, frustration tolerance, patience, collaboration, emotional stuff,”  all challenges faced by many veterans at the facility who have had tours of Iraq and Afghanistan, she noted.

Read the full story by Paul Fattig
in southern Oregon’s Mail Tribune.

And read about other therapy dog programs involving veterans:

Service dogs help Wash. soldiers battling PTSD   Army Spc. Mike Ballard reaches for his service dog, Apollo, to help him get through the worst symptoms of his post-traumatic stress disorder, a remnant of the explosion in Afghanistan that ended his career as an Army medic.

Mike Ballard and his dog, Apollo

Ballard, 41, received Apollo through a program that’s been in place at the Warrior Transition Battalion at Joint Base Lewis-McChord battalion, in Washington state, since 2009.

Because Ballard has issues with walking, Apollo helps keep him balanced, and also picks things up off the ground for him. But more importantly, Ballard said, Apollo is keenly attuned to how he feels.
“He’s my battle buddy now,” Ballard said. “He’s got my back, and I’ve got his.”

Wounded Warriors Helping Dogs Help Vets  — ABC News Sgt. Brian Bradley, who is training six dogs, lost his right arm in Afghanistan in 2010. He credits the program with helping him readjust to everyday life. And in return, he uses his prosthetic limb to better train the dogs to care for future owners who may have prosthetics.

“Some of the puppies — they were like, ‘What is that?’ They see the hook moving around and stuff,” Bradley said. “…We introduce that to them because they know they are going to be seeing it later. Also, we introduced the wheelchairs to them too and the power chairs.”




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