I have just finished reading Reporting for Duty, a coffee table book written by Tracy Libby. This book is presented well, with small vignettes interspersed with text, photos, and profiles of 15 veterans and their assistance dogs.
The book’s first chapter explains PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder, a term that didn’t come into use until after the Vietnam War), TBI (traumatic brain injury), and MST (military sexual trauma) – pretty gut-wrenching content.
The chapters that follow include coverage of therapy dogs in history, prison puppy programs and combat and operational stress-control dogs. The final chapter is about how dogs read us, with references to the various research findings about canine cognition and the human-animal bond (a favourite subject of mine).
There are many photographs in this book, which are lovingly presented. It provides a good selection of case studies – veterans and their dogs – with veterans from different wars and each requiring different levels of assistance and support.
But it is the book’s Foreward that will remain with me for some time. Written by Karen D Jeffries (retired Commander in the US Navy, and co-founder of Veterans Moving Forward, Inc – a charity which will benefit from some of the proceeds of sales), the Foreward contains some sobering statistics and facts:
- The US Veteran’s Administration is unable to meet the needs of the disabled veteran population
- More that 540,000 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have PTSD or depression (or both)
- More than 260,000 veterans have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries
- Even if all of the service dog organisations currently operating in the United States increased their annual output by a factor of 100, the mental health challenges of veterans would still not be met
- The present policy of the Veteran’s Administration is to provide service dogs only to veterans with visual or hearing impairment or some selected mobility challenges – a small sub-set of the range of uses and support that can be given by trained dogs
This is a book that is best enjoyed in hard copy – flick through the photos and thank heaven for the people who volunteer, fund raise, and train assistance dogs.
My copy of the Reporting for Duty was provided free-of-charge by the book’s publisher. I will cherish it as part of my dog book collection.
Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand