Watertown— The 10th Mountain Division is the most deployed division in the nation and according to an ArmyTimes article, “An estimated one in five veterans deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan since 2001 has or will develop post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression.”
According to the article, veterans with PTSD tend to isolate themselves from social situations. In fact, most veterans coming back from deployment tend to avoid crowds. However, having a family dog can help soldiers to break out of the tendency to isolate.
ABC50 spoke with Staff Sergeant Lawrence Ewing who just returned from Afghanistan in October. Staff Sergeant Ewing is one soldier who was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Staff Sergeant Ewing had personal experience with PTSD; it took a friend to convince him to seek professional help.
Staff Sergeant Ewing expressed that a number of soldiers often isolate themselves. “One thing I noticed, soldiers that isolate do much better when they visit a fellow soldier that has dogs, cats, even reptiles. Pets seems to disarm soldiers with PTSD, especially dogs.”
Staff Sergeant Ewing and his family have a little family helper of their own- a little tea-cup Chihuahua named Lu-Lu. Lu-Lu may be a mere 4-5 pounds, but Staff Sergeant Ewing states, “Lu-Lu has been a big help for me and the kids. It helps to see her so excited to see me.” Lu-Lu has helped reduce stress and bring joy to the family.
Having a family dog builds socialization opportunities not just for canines, but their owners. Rick Yount, social worker and owner of “Warrior Canine Connection” also is the founder of Brookeville, Md. therapeutic service dog training program.
According to Mr. Yount, “Veterans with PTSD may not take kindly to people urging them out of their social shells” however according to Yount, soldiers with dogs will be less likely to isolate:
“Then the (option) to isolate is impossible. If you take a golden retriever or Labrador into the public, people are going to interact with you. They serve as social lubricant to reduce isolation.”
A Harvard Medical School, Health Publications conducted a study on the health benefits of owning a dog and or family pet:
“Pets have been shown to lower blood pressure, improve recovery from heart disease, and even reduce rates of asthma and allergy in children who grow up with a Fido or a Frisky in the house. Pets also improve people’s psychological well-being and self-esteem.”
However, dogs in shelters tend to have high level of stress. Another study showed that human interaction with dogs equally benefit the stress level in dogs. The level of cortisol, which is a stress hormone in dogs lowered with human contact:
“Each dog interacted with a human for approximately 45 min. Salivary cortisol levels were examined from each dog on their 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 9th day of housing. Animals that engaged in a human contact session had lower cortisol levels on day 3 than animals that did not.”
It appears that having dog or a pet can have significant benefits to both owner and animal. Again, the rate of soldiers returning from war with PTSD calculates to one out of five soldier either with PTSD symptoms or major depression, according to the most recent ArmyTimes article.
However, more and more research shows the numerous health benefits that having a family dog can have on both humans and canine. Perhaps, dogs are not only “man’s best friend” but rather, an organic remedy to PTSD, anxiety, depression, lower high blood pressure, reduce stress and so much more.