Improving the lives of veterans one paw at a time

Many veterans returning from military service experience some challenges readjusting to civilian life and some suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) 

PTSD is a psychological response to the experience of intense traumatic events, including those that threaten life. For military veterans, the trauma may relate to direct combat duties, being in a dangerous war zone, or taking part in peacekeeping missions under difficult and stressful conditions. 

Animals play an important part in alleviating the symptoms associated with PTSD as they develop a human-animal bond with their owners, creating a safety net that invokes a calming feeling to help reduce both physical and psychological reactions. 

People living with PTSD often show external signs associated with their stress response such as bouncing legs, rubbing hands, breathing heavily, sweating excessively 

Defence Community Dogs are trained to use external signs as cues for relevant skills and provide support to veterans when it is needed most and help improve the lives of veterans one paw at a time.  

Established in 2014, the dogs are rescued from shelters and trained to help guide those living with trauma back to a sense of safety, helping to improve interpersonal connections, encourage engagement in the community, and regain areas of functioning that may have been diminished by their trauma. 

Michael, a recipient of a Defence Community Dog, said that Lola has pulled him out of nightmares several times since she came into his care.  

“I normally suffer from kicking my feet and punching in my sleep, but Lola jumps up on the bed and lays straight across my feet and puts her weight on them. It brings me back to the real world,  Michael said. 

“Having Lola is absolutely life changing.”  

Defence Community Dogs was a finalist in the Veteran Support Program of the Year category at the Australian Defence Industry Awards earlier this year 

Learn more about the Defence Community Dogs program and how you can show your support here. 

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