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Therapy Dogs Aid Soldiers during Counseling

Posted May 29, 2014 in A Pet's Life

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Staff Sgt. Dennis Swols was not one to believe in counseling sessions after serving 7 tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Swols suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder that is so severe, he experiences seizures, according to Steve Osunsami of ABC News, Swols tells Osunami that “even his kids knew not to sneak up on him from behind.”

Swols opinions changed drastically after he met Lexy, the 5-year old German Shepherd. Lexy was able to get through to Swols and really let him open up. Osunsami says, the dog “lies next to him during sessions and pulls closer when...Swols is stressed.”

According to ABC News there are now 2,500 dogs trained in the armed services; however, Lexy is making history as she and other dogs at the Warrior Canine Connection in Brookville, Maryland, are the first to help heal soldiers therapeutically. “It can comfort them [the soldiers.] Get them through the hard stuff,” explains psychiatrist Maj. Christine Rumayor, “So they can keep talking and work through their issues.”

Swols admits that Lexy has brought about powerful change for him. “I could tell a story. I could cry. I could do anything and she’s not going to judge me” (ABC News). The bond they share is truly a special one.

Therapy dog trainer, Rick Yount, begins training these dogs when they’re very young and over time they learn to sense when a soldier is anxious or distressed. “We know that emotions have a chemical component to them,” Yount told Osunsami, “These dogs are basically able to detect through scent, your emotional state.”

Does your dog have the disposition of a therapy dog? Click here to find out>

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

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Tori has more than 2 years of experience in the pet health industry and is junior editor of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team.

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The opinions and views expressed in this post are those of the author's and do not necessarily represent the beliefs, policies or positions of all veterinarians, Pet Health Network, IDEXX Laboratories, Inc. or its affiliates and partner companies.