12 November 2008

Dogs Help Veterans Heal And Promote Independence And Normalcy

Photo: Tyrone Turner for The New York Times veterans helped by healing paws Copyright 2008 © NYT

“In November 2007, [Sergeant Eugene Gwathmey] was teamed with Larry, an English Labrador and golden retriever mix. The bond between them was instant.
Larry helps with walking stability and P.T.S.D., and has also demonstrated the potentially life-saving ability to alert Sergeant Gwathmey to a seizure before it happens. Larry has changed his life, he said, and has given him back a large degree of independence.
“Before Larry, I couldn’t stand crowds,” he said. “My confidence in being out in public has gone from not going out at all to going out on my own.” Sergeant Gwathmey is also being treated for traumatic brain injury and is assigned to the Wounded Warrior Regiment at Walter Reed.”

(...) Sue Downes, 28, enlisted in the Army in 2004 as a precursor to a career in law enforcement. In 2006 she was deployed to Afghanistan as a military police officer, and there, on Nov. 28, her military vehicle exploded after hitting an improvised explosive device.
Because of the mountainous terrain, a medevac unit was unable to reach her. “I bled out for six hours,” Ms. Downes said. She was eventually treated at two local NATO hospitals, where both her legs were amputated.

(...) In addition to helping Ms. Downes walk with her prosthetic legs, Lila has become a loving and intuitive companion, particularly with P.T.S.D.

Lila also likes to go to PetSmart. Ms. Downes said she was thankful that while out in public, people tended to pay more attention to Lila than to her disability.

“Sue has overcome a lot,” Mr. Naranjo said. “I think Lila makes her feel at ease. In the Army, we have this thing called a battle buddy. You never go anywhere by yourself, and you always take your battle buddy because they are there to protect you and you are there to protect them. It’s the same concept with a service dog.”

I'm going to try not to complain so fu****g much, and remember these folks and their sacrifice. Trite? So what. Today is Veterans Day.  Everyday should be Veterans Day.
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