The Mission of Semper Fido’s program is to unite wounded warriors suffering with PTSD with homeless, rescue shelter dogs, who are evaluated and deemed viable, to nurture a healing and rejuvenating bond between the two. The result is a positive, non judgmental, unconditional relationship desperately needed by both.
Family pets may be used if they meet age, size and temperament requirements.
Recently, a much needed boost to this modality was given when the Justice Department redefined regulations clarifying parts of 1990’s Americans with Disabilities Act.
…the dog must be trained to do work or perform tasks for persons with PTSD. Dogs do not have to be formally trained by an ADI approved school.
Time Magazine quotes, “Walter Reed Medical Center and other military medical centers have started stationing dogs on hospital floors to help calm patients.” There are multiple organizations training dog to perform multiple tasks for wounded warriors. According to Jim Stanek, Paws and Stripes in Albuquerque, NM, “Your average service dog coming out of these agencies can do 82 different tasks. But if you’ve got a veteran whose main problem is PTSD, what does turning on a light switch do for him?”
This is where we step in.
According to Minnesota Senator Al Franken, “I really believe the dogs can provide tremendous benefits. The whole point of this is to measure in a scientifically valid way what the benefits are of service dogs to vets with psychological injuries and make a better life for these guys and women who have put everything on the line for us.”
As many as 400,000 troops are possibly returning with the symptoms of PTSD. Dog partners have a tremendous stress reduction effect on their human partners as measured through cortisol levels, heart rate and blood pressure. These dogs can quite literally become a serviceman’s or servicewoman’s best friend.
For warriors with PTSD, it has been documented that a dog helps with emotional regulation. Patients who are very anxious and have anger issues find they can’t work with a dog if they yell. They must have a calm voice. Working with a dog helps build confidence and bridge the gap with strangers. More often than not the response and the bond is immediate.
A female warrior with PTSD has sleep disorders and often awakens to find herself barricaded in her closet, behind duffle bags, with a knife. With her working support dog she is able to sleep. Simply having a dog around allows the warriors to trust the dog to assess the safety of their surroundings, as the dogs have a much keener sensory capacity than people.
Semper Fido has found that a great majority of the warriors with PTSD choose a shelter dog because they want ‘to save something’. They may choose a dog with an injury because they have an injury too. They are both healing. They fit together. They are a team.
Veterans often suffering alone, seem to silence themselves because of the stigma still attached to psychological injuries like PTSD. The dog can calm them down and get their minds off of everything going on in their lives by focusing on the dog and not themselves.
There is life after injuries. This new quality of life just might be, in part, based on a PTSD working support dog.
Semper Fido is a non-profit organization that evaluates, tests, trains, qualifies and assists working therapy dogs to provide loving, nurturing, and empathic, trained working dogs for returning wounded warriors faced with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The latest program implemented is PAIRING WARRIORS FOR LIFE. A rescue dog from a shelter or the warrior’s own personal dog, if deemed appropriate in temperament, demeanor and size, will be evaluated, enter BOOT CAMP, and be trained specific commands for specific needs of a wounded warrior with PTSD.
Once trained, these Semper Fido PTSD Working Support Dogs have the ability to decrease isolation of the veteran, decrease the need for many medications, decrease anxiety and panic attacks when in crowded public places, awaken them from nightmares and flashbacks, and simply “have their backs”.
This extensive and costly training is at no charge to the warrior and his dog, with training lasting 6-9 months at the least. Once training is completed and the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizenship classification is awarded to the team, and after intensive training to meet the specific needs of the specific warrior, the dog will be eligible for service dog designation, according to the American Disabilities Act.
The team will carry the necessary health certificates and documentation and the companion will be able to accompany the warrior to stores, restaurants and living accommodations, permitting full access to any and all places the warrior wishes to visit.
Currently, veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the DC VA Hospital are adopting pets from the Washington Animal Rescue League. It IS working!
For hundreds of wounded veterans, the long walk to recovery is often a lonely one. A long walk is something most dogs love.