Many believe the signs of Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS) are not visible; for the most part they are true however it is because those who are suffering with PTS do all they can to hide it or control it because they feel it is a weakness or that they will be viewed upon as someone with a mental disorder. However, PTS is not a mental disorder. PTS is a disorder that develops when an individual has experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event that is not within the normalcy of an everyday occurrence, such as our veterans going to war. Unless one is in their shoes we cannot know what they have experienced or how they are experiencing the PTS. But, we can help them but understanding the best we can, be patient with them, and provide them with a comfort such as a canine companion. Not to say, a loved one, spouse or child is not a comfort to a veteran however a canine comfort is someone that can predict, concentrate, and have that connection that a human cannot.
As for the signs of PTS, yes, there are those signs – such as pacing, sweaty palms, nervousness, huffing, breathing hard, sweating, and just uneasiness to name a few. Not to say all veterans will display these signs but in general those are some symptoms. I am no doctor, nurse, psychiatrist or such however I am a spouse of a veteran with severe PTS who has been in/ out of several different clinics, Veteran’s Administration facilities and have seen other veterans as well as have seen how my own spouse reacts to situations when he becomes stress, uneasy or in a predicament that sets off his PTS. His saving grace as well as mine has been a twelve pound angel, a pug, and his now service dog.
Within him constantly feeling uneasy and having anxiety/panic attacks he was officially diagnosed with PTS and prescribed medication. The medication made things worse because he is unable to take medication because his body is not tolerant of medications so with no other avenues at that time he became home bound, could not go to his daughter’s school events, could not travel to see his boys and wasn’t even able to go shopping. Even when he was left at home it would only be a matter of time before he was calling to see when I was returning, how much longer, or such to where we could not spend any time out of the home. Then one day we visited a no-kill shelter with him to see about getting a dog to keep him company so at least we can run errands and get things done without him having panic/anxiety attacks while we were gone. We found this little lethargic pug that had protruding eyes, which we were informed if not corrected she would lose her eye sight. There was no doubt she was the one for us.
She was automatically enrolled in obedience classes and started the beginner class within a few weeks of coming home. It was difficult at first because of her eyesight but to show her the treats we chose a bigger treat to get her to sit, stay or down and etc. but fed her the smaller treat. She completed the Beginner Obedience class very well and continued onto Intermediate Obedience class, which again she did extremely well. We took a break before entering the Advance Obedience class to have her eyes taken care off. Her surgery went fine and within two weeks, she was able to close her eyes and sleep full nights. We continued onto Advance Obedience training in which again she did well. So all the obedience training was completed and her eyes were corrected. We were talking with the trainer when he realized my husband has a hearing problem yet notice his pacing and uneasiness issues also, so it was mentioned about Pia Pia becoming a hearing service dog for him. We were unsure if that is what we wanted however the trainers came and spoke with us the benefits of her being able to help him with his hearing then also being there to assist with his PTS. First, Pia Pia would need to be scrutinize to see if Pia Pia would be able to be a service dog as well as to see if my husband would also be able to assist with the training, we also needed to obtained the medical documentation from his physician stating his hearing loss and the diagnosis of his PTS causing his anxiety/panic attacks, once we had the documentation, the committee review Pia Pia’s performance and my husband’s position on her being a service dog, they were approved to become a service dog team and the training began. Within a couple of weeks they started their service dog training. As they began the service dog training we had Pia Pia’s ophthalmologist appoint to find out that she gained sight back and she has no more eye issues.
She needless to say this little underweight lethargic half blind Pug is now a hearing service dog for my husband. She gave my husband his life back with her he has complete trust and faith that she has his back, will help him and be right there for him when he needs her. Trust me there have been times that she has been where I have unfortunately have failed him, proving that the canine bond is stronger. Another reason why each veteran who suffers from PTS needs less medications and more canine companionship, in the end it is the companionship and comradery of knowing that there is someone there that will have the veteran’s back that is missing.
The only thing that is wrong with a veteran with PTS is that they missed out on something special whether it was a holiday, birth of a child, school event or just that romantic date to give us our freedom to enjoy what we have today. If you see that one person with sweaty palms, pacing or a little uneasy – don’t judge them, they may be the veteran who gave you your freedom to judge – instead Thank them and tell them you support them. If they have a service dog acknowledge them with a Thank you and a support of them with them having a service dog to help them. Thank you. Thank you to all our veterans, military personnel, their families, fur-legged family members and those who help them.
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