It is not exactly known how many military dogs have died in Afghanistan and Iraq in the service of their country, but most anyone in combat can attest to their valor. While the number of military dog fatalities dwarfs the estimated 8 million horses that died in WW1, their protective role in combat cannot be underestimated.
While dogs have long served alongside men and women in combat, it is surprising (at least to me) that the Department of Veterans Affairs (the “VA”) continues to insist that there is no “clinical evidence” to conclude that service dogs offer any material benefit to Veterans with PTSD:
Owning a dog can lift your mood or help you feel less stressed. Dogs can help people feel better by providing companionship. All dog owners, including those who have posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can experience these benefits.
Clinically, there is not enough research yet to know if dogs actually help treat PTSD and its symptoms. Evidence-based therapies and medications for PTSD are supported by research. We encourage you to learn more about these treatments because it is difficult to draw strong conclusions from the few studies on dogs and PTSD that have been done.
Fortunately, many States and private foundations feel differently than the VA about the emotional benefits Veterans may receive with a service dog. As such, many charitable organizations have popped up around the country to provide Veterans with access to service dogs. Veterans who receive these wonderful companions are most grateful.
It costs money to identify and train service dogs. One organization that does a commendable job in doing so is Train a Dog – Save a Warrior or “TADSAW”.
Sadly, there are far too many Veterans with PTSD seeking “battle buddies” than TADSAW or other similar organizations can provide. While many Veterans find it difficult to make the time to train with their new “buddy,” there are many wonderful stories that suggest these dogs do have a positive impact on the lives of Veterans.
Some 3.9 million dogs enter animal shelters each year in the United States. If only 1% of these dogs could be properly trained and given to Veterans, we would make a serious dent on reducing the number of abandoned dogs and help 39,000 Veterans reclaim their lives.
This sounds like a win-win proposition. Shouldn’t we give it a go or wait until further research is available at the VA?