For many veterans of war, traumatic injuries have had a major negative effect on their lives. Many of these injuries are physical, caused from combat. However, many more still struggle with the mental side of war. In particular, many veterans have suffered traumatic brain injuries or still grapple to this day with PTSD and other residual effects of being part of a combat zone and war.
For a veteran named Benjamin Stapp, this is all too real. A veteran of the Iraq war, Stapp had a traumatic brain injury while overseas. He has also had surgery on his ankle and suffers from significant, ongoing pain in his lower back and legs. He says that he also has a lot of anger and rage from his experience—something that helped to keep him alive while overseas.
Now that he has returned from war, he needed a way to help manage his anger and a dog from the organization K9s for Warriors has done just that for him. The Labrador mix can sense when he is becoming agitated and reminds him to begin controlled breathing exercises or find a quiet place to calm himself. So, how can a dog help calm a human?
Researchers have found that dogs sense human emotions and can feel when levels of cortisol (a hormone caused by stress or anxiety) increase and can be trained to respond to this spike. Dogs are being trained to help these servicemen and women and those who struggle with anxiety in order to help bring calm to an otherwise stressful situation. It has been discovered that dogs, and other animals like horses, are very much in tune to human emotions and can be used for calming purposes. For veterans like Benjamin Stapp, the presence of a dog in his life has changed everything for him, helping him to go back to school and control his anxiety with the help of his trusty K9 companion.