pet-assisted therapy

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Service and therapy dogs help heal physical, mental wounds

By Emily Pippin

The feeling of warm fur on skin is powerful. A bark, a nudge, a gentle, wet lick on the hand. These small gestures and movements can bring calm and confidence to a wounded veteran or person living with physical or mental disabilities or injuries.

Therapy dogs: unconditional love and assistance for veterans

Not all injuries are visible. And perhaps the invisible injuries are the most difficult to heal. The bi-coastal Paws and People Aiding Wounded Warriors program aims to do just that: heal the invisible injuries veterans often suffer through. From working with top-of-the-line breeders across the country, to training the pick of the litter puppies, to matching the dogs with a prospective wounded veteran, the PPaWWs team works to eradicate the stigma surrounding mental injuries in veterans. And their hard work is paying off.

“I cannot tell you how much my service dog has changed my life in just the past five months,” Nathan Dee, a PPaWWs therapy dog recipient said. “I have tried group therapy, individual therapy, medication and hospitalization, but nothing has helped as much as having a dog that helps me feel safe out in the world, keeps me company and loves me unconditionally.”

Dee's service dog, Alice

Dee’s therapy and service dog, Alice, during a trip to the park. Photo courtesy of PPaWWS.

Dee was severely injured while deployed in Afghanistan and now suffers from traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder and other physical ailments. He was matched with the PPaWWs program in Atlanta where he met his now-daily companion, Alice, a Great Dane. Through her training with the PPaWWs program she has been able to help Dee in a variety of ways. From giving Dee the confidence to talk in front of crowds, to physically supporting him so he doesn’t need his cane, to finding his way home if he gets lost or disoriented, Alice has made a profound difference in his life. Continue reading

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