Bringing Dogs to Heal: Care for Veterans with PTSD

by Rebecca on December 6, 2010

in Animal Stories

Great article by Mark Thompson in Time magazine: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2030897,00.html?xid=newsletter-weekly

Gillian Laub for TIME

Dave Sharpe had trouble leaving his Yorktown, Va., home until Cheyenne helped ease the former airman’s anxiety.
Staff Sergeant Brad Fasnacht was clearing mines on an Afghan road a year ago when an IED blast broke his spine and both ankles and put him in a two-week stupor that ended only when he woke up, 7,000 miles away, at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. The explosion had knocked his helmeted head so violently, he suffered a traumatic brain injury, which exacerbates his posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Although Army doctors and nurses have been able to get the 26-year-old walking again, he has had to call in a specialist — Sapper, an Australian cattle dog mix — to help tackle his PTSD.
“He has changed my life,” Fasnacht says of the 1-year-old mutt, whose name is shorthand for “combat engineer,” Fasnacht’s Army job. Sapper goes with him whenever he leaves his Silver Spring, Md., apartment, something he was terrified of doing until he got his canine companion in April. Three combat tours and two Purple Hearts had left him in a state of hypervigilance, constantly scanning suburban streets and trees for snipers. War had made him wary of crowds — and even of individuals who got a little too close. “I’d just freak out, getting really uneasy,” he says. “But not anymore.” The speckled dog calms Fasnacht’s anxieties and keeps them from mushrooming into panic attacks. Part bodyguard, part therapist, Sapper also serves as an extra set of eyes and ears. “I’ve lost some of my hearing, but Sapper alerts me if someone is coming up behind me,” he says. When Fasnacht is sleeping, the dog will wake him from a nightmare by licking his face.


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