Post Traumatic Syndrome? Dogs to the Rescue

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 I had a great evening the other Tuesday night at the Naval Air Facility. I used to work out there in an outpatient-counseling center and monthly they have a great dinner and program for the community put on by the Navy League. The League does a fine job raising funds to support servicemen and women, military families, and veterans.

Let’s get to the food first. If you are a steak eater, there is no better beef to be had in the Imperial Valley. The dinner cost is a donation to a worthy cause, so it is a win-win. They offer the largest T-bone steak to be had and most folks needed two plates, one for the steak and the other for the accessories- beans, salad and bread. It also comes with desert, which I passed on, since I ate my beef down to the bone. The meat was extremely tender and well worth the cost of $25.00. If you are not a meat-eater, they had vegetarian fare for ten dollars.

A non-profit program called “Next Step Service Dogs” followed up the food with the dog trainers coming from the Escondido area. The purpose of the program is to train and give away dogs to veterans who are experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Combat situations involve traumatic experiences, which can have serious and profound psychological consequences. Just a few of the symptoms of PTSD are nightmares, sleep disturbance, anxiety, depression and social isolation. Even entering a dark home in the evening can be extremely disturbing for someone whose job was to enter dark buildings with the risk of enemy fire or explosive devices.

Dogs have long been used in helping people in pain or to cope with difficulties, such as seeing eye dogs helping the visually impaired.

Normal situations and relationships are difficult for persons who survived extremely abnormal situations, and war is something that affects thousands of service men and women each year. According to the  trainer’s brochure, over 600,000 military suffer from PTSD/TBI. Next Step dogs help by providing a non-threatening relationship where there can help with tasks such as getting keys or the cell phone, entering a darkened apartment, getting the lights turned on, or just providing loving companionship.

This service of helping veterans is free for those in need and includes learning to use the dog, and the veteran helps to train the dog. Volunteers drive the program and the trainers donate their time.

There is an effort to begin a dog-training program here in the Valley if we have interested parties. Are you interested? You can call Judy Keene of Next Step Service Dogs at 760-438-9190. If you want local dog training information, call Mike Burk 760-353-4391. If you want to support or get involved in the Navy League at the base, call Steve Benton at 760-352-5955. If you need someone to go eat steak with, well call me!