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“I can go anywhere”:

It was dinner time in Whittier, California, home of Air Force veteran Daniel Clark Gutierrez. It was Lisa, a 3-year-old yellow Labrador retriever, who was eagerly awaiting a bowl of kibble and canned dog food.

Her claws, as she dances and clicks on the kitchen floor, are more of an overflowing puppy than a highly trained service animal that helps Clark Gutierrez manage the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. It looked like.

“I have a girlfriend now, so I can go anywhere,” said Clark Gutierrez. “And yes, if someone comes to me, I’ll warn you — I was able to run.”

Increasing research on PTSD and service animals has paved the way for President Joe Biden to sign a puppy (PAWS) to help injured military personnel in veterans’ therapy. Under a law enacted in August, the Department of Veterans Affairs will launch a service dog referral program for PTSD veterans and a five-year pilot program for PTSD veterans to train other veterans for service dogs. Is obligatory.

Clark Gutierrez, 33, is among the 25 percent of female veterans who reported experiencing military sexual trauma while serving in the US military.

Military sexual trauma, combat violence, and brain damage are some of the experiences that increase the risk of service members developing PTSD. Symptoms include flashbacks to traumatic events, severe anxiety, nightmares, and hypervigilance, according to psychologists. These are all normal reactions to experiencing or witnessing violence. Someone gets a PTSD diagnosis when symptoms worsen or remain for months or years.

That’s what Clark-Gutierres said about 10 years ago after continuous sexual harassment by fellow Air Force soldiers escalated into a physical attack. A lawyer with three children said she needed her husband on her side to leave the house and feel safe. After diagnosing Clark-Gutierrez with PTSD, a doctor at the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital prescribed a series of medications for her. At one point, Clark-Gutierrez said her prescription was more than 12 tablets per day.

“I took the drug and then took the drug with two or three side effects of each drug,” she said. “And every time they gave me a new drug, they had to give me three more. I couldn’t do it anymore. I was just tired. So I started looking at other treatments. rice field.”

And that’s how she got her service dog, Lisa. The husband of Clark Gutierrez, a veteran of the Air Force, discovered the non-profit organization K9s for Warriors. This group rescues dogs (mostly from killing shelters) and trains them to become veteran service animals for PTSD. Lisa is one of about 700 dogs whose group is paired with veterans to deal with the symptoms caused by the traumatic experience.

“Now I’m biking with Lisa, going to the park and going to The Home Depot,” Clark-Gutierrez said. “I go shopping for groceries-ordinary people-what I can do is something I couldn’t do before Lisa.”

This is not surprising for Maggie O’Hare, an associate professor of human-animal interaction at Purdue University. According to her research, service dogs are not always a cure for PTSD, but their symptoms are alleviated. Some studies she has published show that veterans associated with these dogs are less angry and anxious and sleep better than veterans who do not have service dogs. Another study of her suggests that service dogs lower cortisol levels in traumatized veterans.

“We actually saw that stress hormone pattern resembling a healthy adult without post-traumatic stress disorder,” O’Hare said.

Focusing on the effects of service dogs on PTSD veterans, a parliamentary mandated VA study released this year found that those who partnered with animals had less suicidal ideation and more improvement in symptoms than those without them. It suggests that.

So far, in a federal dog referral program that relies on a non-profit service dog organization that pays for dogs and provides them free of charge, participating veterans are physically mobile, including loss of limbs, paralysis, and blindness. I had to have a sexual problem. Veterans with PTSD but no disabilities, such as Clark Gutierrez, arranged for service dogs on their own.

A pilot program created by new federal law gives PTSD veterans the opportunity to train mental health service dogs for other veterans. Modeled after the Department of Veterans Affairs Hospital program in Palo Alto, California, it is offered at five Veterans Affairs Medical Centers nationwide in collaboration with accredited dog training institutions.

Adam Webb, a spokesman for Senator Thom Tillis (RN.C.), who submitted the bill in the Senate, said: “We do not expect VA to begin prescribing PTSD service dogs, but the data generated from this pilot program may help create that case in the future.”

The Office of Management and Budget estimates that the pilot program will cost about $ 19 million for VA. The law has stopped requiring the Department of Veterans Affairs to pay for dogs. Instead, the agency will partner with a certified service dog organization that uses private funds to cover the costs of adopting, training, and pairing with veterans.

Still, the law represents a welcome face to the VA policy, said Rory Diamond, CEO of K9s for Warriors.

“For the past decade, the Department of Veterans has basically said that they don’t recognize service dogs as helping veterans with post-traumatic stress,” Diamond said.

According to Diamond, PTSD service dogs are often confused with emotional support dogs. The latter provides dating and is not trained to support people with disabilities. He said PTSD service dogs cost about $ 25,000 for adoption and training.

Diamond explained that the command “cover” means “the dog sits next to the warrior, looks behind him, and warns if someone comes from behind.” The command “block” means that the dog “stands vertically and gives some space from what is in front of it.”

Retired Master Sergeant David Clenshaw of Kearny, NJ, said his service dog, Doc, changed his life.

“We teach the army to have combat companions,” Clenshaw said. “And these service animals act as combat companions.”

A few months ago, Clenshaw experienced this first hand. He generally avoided large rallies, as persistent hypervigilance is one of the symptoms of combat-induced PTSD. But this summer, Doc, a mix of pointers and Labradors, helped Clenshaw navigate the Disney World crowd. This is the first important thing for Clenshaw and his family of five.

“I wasn’t upset. I wasn’t worried. I wasn’t upset,” said 39-year-old Clenshaw. It happened naturally. “

Thanks to Doc, Crenshaw no longer takes PTSD medications or self-treats with alcohol. Clark Gutierrez said Lisa also helped her stop using alcohol and taking VA prescriptions because of periods of panic attacks, nightmares, and dissociations.

Dogs actually save Veterans Affairs money over time, Diamond said. “Our warriors are much less likely to take expensive prescription drugs, much less likely to use other VA services, and much more likely to go to school or work. So it’s totally in favor of each other. “

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Danyelle Clark-Gutierrez and her service dog Lisa go shopping for groceries at a grocery store. Clark Gutierrez acquired a yellow Labrador retriever to deal with post-traumatic stress disorders after experiencing military sexual trauma while serving in the Air Force.

https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2021/12/web1_LIFE-HEALTH-SERVICEDOGS-VETERANS-KHN.jpg Danyelle Clark-Gutierrez and her service dog Lisa are grocery stores .. Clark Gutierrez acquired a yellow Labrador retriever to deal with post-traumatic stress disorders after experiencing military sexual trauma while serving in the Air Force.

How Therapy Dogs Help Veterans with PTSD

Stephanie O’Neil

Kaiser Health News

“I can go anywhere”:

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