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Group uses canines to treat returning veterans

September 10, 2012 | By More

Flagler College assistant professor Tina Jaeckle informed local Historic City News reporters that, according to a Rand Corporation study, one-in-five returning veterans suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder — one in six will attempt or commit suicide.

According to Jaeckle, who teaches sociology at Flagler, dogs have been shown to be much more sensitive to human stress, such as panic attacks, than other humans might be. It is that sensitivity to feelings, such as fear and anxiety, which makes them perfect partners for combat veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“My background as a clinical social worker has always been in crisis and trauma. This is a subject I teach to law enforcement officers and other first responders,” said Jaeckle. “Right now, the disorder is an epidemic and if we don’t figure out better ways to deal with this, we’ll have no idea what to do when all these folks come back home.”

Jaeckle serves on the board of a Ponte Vedra Beach-based organization called, “K-9s for Warriors”, where participants are trying a different treatment approach in the form of man’s best friend.

Service dogs in the program are rescues from local shelters that are trained together with their matched veteran to establish a deep bond that will enable the dog to be able to sense when its owner is in danger.

Three to five veterans at any given time are put up at the facility for a three-week training program where the “warrior” learns the skills needed to train their own canines. The group provides a service canine, training, certification, equipment, seminars, vet care, most meals and housing.

Symptoms in the patient can include hostility, aggression, suicide, paranoia, acrophobia, nightmares, poor coping skills, memory loss depression, and lack of trust. Each warrior has differing symptoms, so his or her service dog is trained for his or her specific disabilities.

Service dogs at the facility are trained to respond to these dangers by performing tasks to lessen the distress. Examples of these tasks include pawing or bringing a toy to break a disturbing episode, blocking an unwanted person from advancing too close, reminding the warrior to take medicine or nudging the warrior while thrashing due to a nightmare.

Since the group’s services are provided, free of charge, financial help and volunteers are always needed.

“I think there are numerous opportunities for students in sociology and psychology to study this disorder as well as a huge opportunity to help veterans,” said Jaeckle. “We’re talking about current and future trends in psychology and sociology that students can take with them to graduate school.”

To find out how you can help, visit http://www.k9sforwarriors.org.

Category: Community

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