Veterans Day is coming up next month, and Petland Kansas City eagerly awaits the holiday to honor America’s brave veterans. Did you know there’s a special day this month that celebrates veterans and their furry friends?
Yup! October 21st is National Pets for Veterans Day. Though this national day of honor hasn’t been around long, it has made a big impact on the lives of veterans.
What is National Pets for Veterans Day? In a nutshell, it’s the result of the psychology community recognizing that dogs offer unique therapeutic benefits to veterans of war.
This revelation occurred when an animal behaviorist and trainer, Clarissa Black, brought a German Shepherd named Bear to a veterans hospital back in the early 2000s. Both the staff and the veterans at the hospital quickly noticed Bear’s intuitive knack to comfort each veteran in the way that best supported the war hero.
For some veterans, Bear would lie quietly on their bed and place his paw on the man’s chest. For others, Bear would nudge them, inviting them to pet him. This calmed the veteran and helped him become grounded in the present moment, a tactic that can ward off an anxiety attack.
Soon, Clarissa Black founded Pets for Vets, an organization that provides therapy dogs to veterans to help them adjust to civilian life and overcome PTSD. National Pets for Veterans Day is all about spreading awareness of the unique emotional needs that veterans have when they return home.
While there are many different types of therapy that can help veterans with PTSD and other war-related afflictions, therapy dogs offer a kind of emotional support that is unlike any other form of therapy. Plus, organizations like Pets for Vets, Vet Dogs, and Canine Companions make obtaining a therapy dog easy and straightforward. For some veterans, this comes as welcomed relief since accessing the available VA government programs can be difficult.
ALLEVIATES DEPRESSION & ANXIETY
Dogs get their owners moving, and they also require a daily routine, which can be great for veterans who just returned home from overseas. When a veteran experiences anxiety and depression, he or she may instinctively want to stay cooped up inside, but doing so only causes the symptoms to worsen.
Just like all dogs, therapy dogs have needs, such as exercise, daily walks, feedings, and social interaction. This motivates their owner-veterans to get into sunshine and get moving. The ultimate result of daily exercise and a consistent routine is that the veteran’s overall mood will become elevated.
SUPPORTS THE TRANSITION TO CIVILIAN LIFE
Serving in the military and going into combat is completely different from civilian life. While in the military, the soldier adheres to strict rules, and both gives and takes orders. By contrast, the lack of formal regulations and regiments at home can be jarring. But having a dog can help to fill that void.
A therapy dog can be trained, and in general dogs take orders well. They even enjoy them and love completing tasks! This can be helpful to veterans who are used to giving orders and asserting authority. It might seem like a small thing, but focusing on training a dog to take complex orders can take a veteran’s mind off worrisome feelings and help him or her to stay in the present moment.
HELPS TO REBUILD TRUST
Thanks to the natural loyalty, attentiveness, and companionship that dogs offer, therapy dogs can help veterans rebuild trust. War-induced PTSD is known to damage the veteran’s trust, and this can be hard to repair. The psychological effects of serving in the military don’t go away just because a soldier’s years of service are over. In fact, many veterans have reported that their symptoms of PTSD didn’t emerge until after they returned home.
Having a therapy dog is a way for a veteran to experience unconditional love and loyalty. Dogs are never in a bad mood and they never take out their bad days on others. Quite the opposite in fact, they are consistently positive, affectionate, and intuitive, even when the veteran isn’t. A veteran can be in a bad mood after a bad day, and his or her dog won’t take it personally. Instead, the dog will work to uplift its owner’s spirits.
It’s a scientific fact that human-to-animal interaction increases oxytocin and reduces cortisol levels. Oxytocin is a “happy chemical” that promotes bonding, while cortisol is produced when a person feels stressed. When veterans pet and handle their therapy dogs, a two-way bond forms. The oxytocin also helps to increase the ability to trust, which can be monumental in the veteran’s healing journey.
Are you or someone you love a veteran who could benefit from a therapy dog? If so, contact one of these organizations to learn more and get started:
It’s important to note that therapy dogs are not service dogs. But that’s good news for veterans who hope to quickly obtain a therapy dog.
Service dogs are certified and trained to help people, including veterans, who have disabilities, such as visual impairments, missing limbs, seizure disorders, or some other physical or mental disability. The two types of service dogs are physical service dogs and psychiatric service dogs. Both types of service dogs are recognized by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
If you would like to learn more or apply for a veteran’s service animal, contact the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
This Veterans Day, we wish all of our veterans the honor and respect they deserve for having served our country, and on October 21st, all of Petland Kansas City will celebrate the special bond between veterans and their therapy dogs!