A Canadian veteran has shared how his Labrador service dog helps him overcome PTSD.
Chad Miron has been suffering from PTSD for five years. His mind continually takes him back to the terrors of war.
Miron flew to Afghanistan in May 2010 where he served an eight-month-long deployment. The Taliban attacked them almost daily with gunfire and rockets.
The worst part of the deployment was the constant fear and threat of stepping on explosive devices or IEDs when on patrol.
“[It] starts to wear down on you,” he says. “It brought a strong sense of our mortality, like, any day, we could die. The odds are pretty decent.”
The veteran witnessed his section commander being hit by an IED blast. He gave him first aid. The commander survived but lost his leg.
“I knew that it would affect me later on, but, at the time, I just kind of took it all in and buried it,” he said.
Miron quietly endured all the terrible things he witnessed and experienced.
When he returned home in December 2010, he found out that he couldn’t cope with it.He says he was angry all the time. He would pick fights in bars and started drinking heavily.
“Eventually, I started completely avoiding my friends. So I just basically became a hermit, locked myself away,” he says.
Miron was later diagnosed with PTSD and took up to five medications daily to help him sleep and fight his depression and anger. “The medication just turned me into a zombie,” he says.
Luckily, Norman, his Labrador service dog, is there to take him out of that nightmare. When Miron has a flashback, he just has to say the word “Nudge” and Norman comes towards him, snuggles his black furry head in close, and lavishes Miron with attention.
“It kind of snaps you out of whatever you’re feeling and you have this kind of cute, giant dog in your lap so how can you be mad at that?” he says.
The Canadian veteran underwent therapy and took numerous medications to cope with PTSD. But he says his biggest savior has been Norman.
“Out of everything I’ve gone through and done, the dog has probably helped the most,” he says.
Now, there’s growing recognition that trained service dogs can really help in healing veterans who suffer from PTSD.
“The counsellors that are working with these folks, they’re seeing an immediate profound impact and [saying], ‘Wow, there’s something going on here,'” says Danielle Forbes, executive director of National Service Dogs in Cambridge, Ontario.Her charity produces and trains service dogs.
With the help of volunteers and donations, National Service Dogs and other non-profits like it provide the dogs for free. But veterans pay for the animal’s care themselves which is difficult for some.
While the federal government covers dog care expenses for former soldiers with physical disabilities, those with PTSD doesn’t get the same support.
“Food gets expensive, vet bills, we all pay for that ourselves,” says Miron.
But the good news is that could change!
Veterans Affairs told CBC News that it is currently recruiting up to 30 former soldiers who suffer from PTSD for a pilot project to help it “better understand the short to long-term impact of a service dog.”
The government will cover the dog care costs. There is also a possibility that the project’s outcome could lead to widespread dog care coverage for all veterans who qualify.
Miron applauds the idea but questions the long wait as the pilot project is expected to end in late 2017. He says his success and the success of others paired with their respective service dogs show further study isn’t needed.
“There’s their pilot program right there. We know first hand what these dogs have done for us,” he says.
Miron got his first dog, Juno, in 2011. With the help of the Labrador mix, he finally felt comfortable to slowly become sociable and venture out in public.
Sadly, Juno died of cancer last year and Norman took over as his service dog.
“He’s kind of got your back, he’s always calm, keeps a smile on your face,” says Miron.
Aside from giving Miron comfort and reassurance, Juno and Norman were also trained to perform special tasks like “block” and “seek it”.
Miron admits that he’ll never be the same person he was before he left for Afghanistan, but he’s coping much better today. He believes he owes his recovery largely to his service dog.
While he dislikes the idea of a long study, Miron says he is pleased the government is finally paying attention to what he believes is an effective therapy for PTSD.
“[A] big part of it is just realizing you’re not broken, it can get better, you can heal and the dogs help a tonne with that,” he says.
Source: CBC Canada