When you or someone you love experience a traumatic event, what happens afterward defines whether you’ll experience a form of chronic stress disorder, called posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. For many people, they are able to leave the traumatic experience behind them after a short while. For others, it’s not quite that simple. Their traumatic experience leads to long lasting, chronic nightmare, one that can last for years on end, adversely affecting every aspect of their life, even their sleep time. Both anecdotal references and scientific studies have given the psychiatric service dog the green light when it comes to reducing symptoms and improving life of those who suffer from PTSD. Though the cost and wait time can be extensive, those who have owned such a service dog have nothing but praise for their performance, and would be lost without them.
History of PTSD
While PTSD was officially recognized as a disorder in the 1980’s, PTSD has actually been a part of life since the the time of the Epic of Gilgamesh and writings of Shakespeare. Indeed, throughout history, there have been many written accounts of soldiers experiencing the signs and symptoms of PTSD. Often referred to by its slang term, being “shell shocked”, those affected with PTSD can get it from traumatic situations that don’t even involve war. It seems that anyone who has experienced a traumatic event can experience chronic, PTSD. For instance, in the 1800’s Hermann Oppenheim began to notice the signs and symptoms of PTSD in railway workers who were involved in accidents. (https://study.com/academy/lesson/the-history-of-ptsd.html)
What Exactly is PTSD?
PTSD stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It occurs after an individual experiences a situation which has left them emotionally and psychologically devastated. As such, they are subjugated to therapy and medications. This can have a terrible effect on individuals who once prided themselves on their independence and mobility. With PTSD, people will generally feel the symptoms creep up on them a little after a month, and continue to experience they symptoms for months or years on end.
To illustrate, a war vet who experienced a dangerous situation in the field of battle, may require ear plugs during the fourth of July, as the mere sound of fireworks will make their PTSD symptoms markedly worse. Symptoms of PTSD can vary from person to person, depending on the type of traumatic experience they suffered with symptoms becoming exacerbated during periods of increased stress. For some, it may be hypersensitivity to quick movements, while others may endure suicidal thoughts and nightmares.
Benefits of PTSD Service Dogs
According to the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, the ownership of a psychiatric service dog is beneficial to both service men and women and civilians alike. The purpose of their study was to provide empirical data as to the efficacy of PTSD service dogs to back up the anecdotes from owners, which they did. It was found that PTSD service dogs provide those suffering from PTSD an increase in the quality of life by providing the veteran with emotional and psychological support. This is most apparent as they attempt to venture outside or perform certain activities.
Studies have shown that PTSD service dogs also provide an overall reduction and improvement of symptoms. Other benefits include a decrease in medication, depression, and deeper, uninterrupted sleeps. These dogs have even been shown to reduce suicidal thoughts. As a result, just one service dog can improve the health and well-being to the point where less medical intervention is required.
Cost of PTSD Service Dogs
Obtaining a PTSD service dog is often a costly operation. Most such organizations have an extensive waiting list, as well. So once you’ve made the decision to add one of these loyal, affectionate and well-trained dogs into your life, it’s time to look at the costs involved. Some organizations such as This Able Veteran ask for no payment for their dog or the accompanying Trauma Resiliency Program. However, according to Pawsitivty, the cost of a well-trained psychiatric service dog costs around hefty $39,000, no matter the organizations. Those organizations that raise the money for you exist, such as Canine Companions for Independence, take care of the costs, as one would expect, have an exceptionally long waiting list.
PTSD Service Dog Grants
In view of all we now know about the benefits service dogs provide, it can be safely said that they save lives, enhance the owners overall well-being, and reduce the need for medical care. However, as shown, obtaining a service dog is an costly and often lengthy undertaking.
Some organizations will assist you in payments, others may not. Sadly, neither Medicare or Medicaid will help with payments. So, if you’re not wealthy enough yourself, you can obtain a grant directly aimed at securing the service dog to suit your particular needs. These organizations are in existence solely for the purpose of providing financial assistance for those seeking a service dog:
- Assistance Dog United Campaign
- PETCO Foundation
- Planet Dog Foundation
- Land of PureGold Foundation
- Brigadoon Service Dogs
- Patriot Paws
Don’t forget to reach out to your veterinarian and others for any information they can provide in helping you finance your service dog. Another option is to visit Assistance Dogs International as they keep a global database of organizations that can assist you in finding the help you need. Also, to avoid fly-by-night organizations that are only there to take your money and run, make certain that any organization which is offers you a PTSD service dog is accredited by Assistance Dogs International, or ADI.
Bill H.R. 4305: Puppies Assisting Wounded Service Members
As this bill was just recently passed, it deserves special mention. In February of 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 4305 by unanimous vote. This act allows veterans suffering from PTSD have a chance at owning a service dog. The bill specifies that the Veterans Administration will give grant money to any nonprofit that instructs veterans how to train their own PTSD dog. Once the vet completes the program, they can then adopt their dogs.
In closing, it would be negligent of us to leave out the alternative, as there are some PTSD sufferers who have additional needs, such as a service animal with a longer lifespan, or one that is strong enough to support them if necessary. While most PTSD sufferers use dogs, others prefer miniature horses due to their strength and longevity. A service dog performs for around 10 years and has an average lifespan between 12 and 15 years, depending on the breed. On the other hand, miniature horses can live up to 35 years and have a working life of over 20 plus years. Miniature horses are also useful when it comes to stability for those with mobility issues. Whichever way you go, know that by welcoming a service animal into your life, those who suffer from PTSD will see their life enhanced above and beyond what they expected.