Veterans from recent conflicts have expanded the role of service dogs. While many Americans still identify “service dogs” as “guide dogs” for the visually impaired, “service” now extends into many other dimensions. A 2009 Wall Street Journal article traces the recent evolution of service dogs to becoming “seeing eye dogs for the mind” in aiding the emotional transition to civilian life. This past August, the VA officially amended its policy to allow all service dogs to accompany Veterans to appointments.
CNN recently highlighted one of the Veterans service dog programs: K9s for Warriors. After realizing that her son could benefit from a service dog companion, Shari Duval established a non-profit to ensure matching and training. Her son Brett Simon Duval, who worked with explosive-tracking dogs in Iraq, now serves as the organization’s Director of K9 Operations.
An indication of the effectiveness of the program is a letter of gratitude, written by “Linda,” a female veteran to JJ, her service dog. In it she says, “I stand taller today…because you stand alongside me, ready to hear my cries, or hear my laughter.” This bond, of course, between humans and dogs is not new. But the careful selection of the right dog for the right Veteran marks an innovative approach to enabling a successful emotional transition.
I can vouch for the importance of this innovation as can my Labradoodle (Kobbe), who even helps me keep balanced work hours by reminding me when it’s time to go home.
For more information, please visit the K9s for Warriors website or search Veterans service dogs in your favorite search engine.
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