According to Smithsonian research, “man’s best friend” could be lifesavers for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Researchers are accumulating evidence that bonding with dogs has biological effects, such as elevated levels of the hormone oxytocin. “Oxytocin improves trust, the ability to interpret facial expressions, the overcoming of paranoia and other pro-social effects—the opposite of PTSD symptoms,” says Meg Daley Olmert of Baltimore, who works for a program called Warrior Canine Connection.
Seventy-year-old Robert L. Brady is about to be forced to give up his emotional support dog after Christmas.
Brady has until Jan. 11 to give up Bane, the mixed-breed sidekick that his psychologist deemed as an emotional support dog.
His Conway-area condominium association won an arbitration order Dec. 12 requiring the Vietnam veteran to surrender the 4-year-old dog because it exceeds the community’s 35-pound weight limit for pets. Bane weighs about 41 pounds. The canine now faces an uncertain future even as assistance dogs have gained greater access to communities, restaurants, and shops.
“The reason I don’t want to lose him is that he keeps my mind off the war and everything. He’s just a wonderful companion,” said the widower, who retired last year from working as a theme-park bus driver. “My life would be lost without a good companion and that’s why I’m doing all I can to keep from having to get rid of him.”
Brady’s attorney, Jonathan Paul, said the association discriminated by looking only at the dog’s weight without considering the disabled military veteran’s documented need for an emotional support animal. He said they are also seeking guidance under federal fair housing laws aimed at protecting housing rights of disabled residents.
Homeowner and condo associations are among those grappling with the boundary lines for emotional support dogs. Unlike service dogs trained to assist disabled people with daily tasks, emotional support animals don’t require training. They can be any species and require no certification to assist owners who have psychological disabilities, according to a June article published by the National Institutes of Health. In Florida, one association lawyer is seeking legislation to further clarify issues related to emotional support animals.
Homeless dogs that are about to be euthanized will be trained and given to veterans who feel isolated and alone, and to many veterans who suffer from PTSD:
Florida law allows service dogs that calm “an individual with post-traumatic stress disorder during an anxiety attack.” Dogs that simply provide comfort, companionship and security don’t qualify as service dogs, according to statutes.
Orlando Veteran Administration psychologist Matthew Waesche wrote in an October 2015 letter that Brady was under his care and that the dog appears to help keep his owner’s mental health issues in remission. – Orlando Sentinel
Iraq war veteran Erick Scott knows first-hand what it’s like to suffer from PTSD. Scott was paired with a special service dog to help him combat his anxiety after he returned from war. Watch the short video clip below to see how important his dog, Gumbo, is to help stop his panic attacks and his agitation.