I’m a rehabilitation counselor and non-pet owner who has seen the benefit and beauty of therapy dogs.
Trust me, these dogs can do far more to help some people heal than we, the professionals. For many, a therapy dog helps them open up to help from humans, so that healing can begin. As a non-pet owner, I’ve marveled at the strong, therapeutic bond between animals and humans, and the difference therapy dogs can make in veterans’ recovery.
The VA wants to end support for veterans with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), who need these dogs while in therapy. A reimbursement program through the VA is due to end tomorrow.
The American Humane Association is joining the fight to help veterans continue to get reimbursement for their service dogs. It has been involved in animal-assisted therapy since 1945, when dogs helped WWII vets recover from the “invisible wounds of war.”
“We know from years of experience that the human-animal bond is a source of powerful healing, whether they are children suffering from cancer or military men and women who have suffered the stress of battle,” writes AHA President and CEO Dr. Robin Ganzert.
“Service dogs, in particular, are an amazing, positive resource for assisting our nation’s best and bravest through their physical pain and mental anguish,” he adds.
“We call on the VA and the United States Congress to stand up for our veterans and their families by continuing to reimburse veterans who suffer from PTSD for the cost of medically approved dogs.”
Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has led the campaign in Congress to support therapy dogs for veterans.
Ganzert’s letter to Schumer continues: “Yours is a courageous fight on behalf of veterans who have experienced the restorative and healing powers of dog-assisted therapy, and we pledge you our full support in your effort to save this critical program.”
At a time when the VA has a hiring freeze, when military suicides are at a reported high, and when 33,000 more troops have just come home from Afghanistan, any program that helps returnees recover from war should be boosted, not cut.
This country spent more than $2 trillion on two wars — “wars on a credit card,” as President Barack Obama reminded us last night. The very least we, the people, can do for the women and men who risked their lives in those wars, is to make certain they have the resources to heal.
There’s no better place to start than with therapy dogs.
(With gratitude to the Sacramento Bee, in California.)