The Men's Trauma Recovery Program at the Palo Alto VA Hospital has introduced a new form of therapy to its rehabilitation system – man's best friend.
According to The San Jose Mercury News, the program is using Golden and Labrador retrievers to help treat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder through Paws for Purple Hearts, an organization that strives to provide healing to servicemembers with military-related mental illness. The news source reported that the dogs have shown the ability to reduce negative feelings such as depression and anxiety, as well as alleviate insomnia and irrational impulses and emotions.
"It's like they have a sixth sense about stress,"Jon Tyson, an Iraq war Army veteran from North Carolina, told the news outlet. "I'm sure [the dog] knows he has a purpose, and it's to make people like us feel better. It's unconditional love. When you have a hard time loving yourself, he will love you."
However, it's hardly a one-sided benefit. As the dogs help the former servicemembers soothe their symptoms of PTSD, the patients are training the four-legged creatures to become service dogs for veterans with disabilities that limit their mobile ability. According to the Paws for Purple Hearts website, the dogs need to undergo training for at least 18 months before they are passed on to the veterans.