When I watched the PBS documentary Shelter Me, I was astounded at the statistics that more returned servicemen are dying by their own hands than are dying in fields of conflict like Afghanistan and Iraq. These men and women are returning from active duty with difficulties such as post traumatic stress disorder and other anxiety-related problems. They have difficulty adjusting to life in peacetime.
Dogs are playing a key role in helping these ex-soldiers to recover and re-enter society. Shelter Me covers the stories of two veterans, for example, who have been paired with service dogs.
Here’s the YouTube trailer for Shelter Me:
The Boston Globe recently covered another story about the value of service dogs. Patriot Rovers is a charity that trains dogs to be service dogs for returned servicemen and women. The charity names the dogs after soldiers who have fallen in the line of duty. The charity’s website is particularly poignant, with photos of the dogs and an explanation of the soldier they are named after.
In the Globe story, Natasha Young-Alicea suffers from migraines and anxiety from the time she served in the Marines and has been paired with Josh who is named after a Navy SEAL, Josh Harris. Josh helps Young-Alicea in many ways. One particular heart-wrenching task is to sit behind her in the checkout line at the supermarket, to avoid people approaching her from behind. This proximity triggers anxiety.
Josh and his handler visit the parents of Josh Harris which also helps in their journey of healing.
These stories reinforce the critical role that service dogs play in our communities. If you have spare time or dollars, please consider supporting service dog charities in your area.