Thursday, August 11, 2011

COMBAT VETS GET CANINE PARTNERS: In unique Mizzou, Humane Society study

Returning from war to unconditional love
COLUMBIA, 8/11/11  (Beat Byte) --  A University of Missouri professor and the Central Missouri Humane Society are teaming up to provide dogs to combat-weary military veterans. 
Some 2 million United States Service members have seen combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, and roughly one million of them will experience combat-related problems, from substance abuse to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).   Canine companions, says Mizzou College of Veterinary Medicine Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction director Rebecca Johnson, (left) can help veterans cope. 
"Interaction with animals relieves stress and lessens symptoms of depression and anxiety," said Johnson, who is leading the new study. "So not only will veterans help dogs exercise and receive necessary training, but the dogs will potentially provide stress relief for the veterans."
The three-phase study started earlier this year in Columbia and Springfield.  In the first phase, veterans learn to train dogs in basic obedience. In phase two, veterans mentor families who adopt the dogs.  In the third phase, the best dogs will be trained as PTSD service dogs.
"People with military backgrounds possess excellent discipline and will be dedicated to the training.  Because of their skills, they will be creating 'super dogs' to be adopted by military and civilian families," said Johnson.
Mars Petcare, the WALTHAM Foundation, the PEDIGREE Foundation, and the Banfield Charitable Trust are assisting with the study. 
"To be able to train a dog that will ultimately help someone else is incredibly rewarding," said Joe Simpson, an Iraq war veteran training a dog named "Tiddly" for the study. "Tiddly’s taught me patience, and I’ve seen an improvement in my daily attitude. She is great to come home to and always gives me a boost."

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