Dogs help veterans recovering from war

July 2, 2012 4:57:08 PM PDT
Dogs are often called man's best friend, and, for that reason, they are being used to help veterans dealing with the mental wounds of war.

A special dog training session is now under way in Chicago.

Starting Sunday for 14 straight days in an outside fenced area, ,aster dog trainer Toriano Sanzone, along with his staff, will train, eat, and sleep with 14 shelter dogs in the parking lot of Good News Community Church on the West Side.

"As we're interviewing the veterans, we know exactly which veteran should go with that particular dog," said Sanzone.

At the end of the 14 days the dogs will be trained canine companions and will be presented to several veterans, most of whom suffer from post traumatic stress disorder.

Joe Trainer, Jr., a former army ranger, did two tours of duty in Afghanistan following 9-11. Trainer suffers from PTSD. He says it is difficult to turn off the fighter mentality.

"One thing that's helped me cope with my skills is the unconditional love of a dog," said Trainer, co-founder of Dogs for Vets.

Trainer will be the first to receive a dog. His dog, Diesel, is a bulldog. He has been training and bonding with Diesel.

"We are going through the exact same process together; he is going through the healing process and so am I," said Trainer.

The dogs are divided into three groups - the most difficult, the middle of the road, and the easiest. They are matched to the veterans to ensure they are right for each other.

"You have dogs that have learned not to trust humans, and then you have soldiers that have lived abroad that have learned not to trust humans, so now you're teaching two entities to trust for the first time again," said Sanzone.

Navy veteran John Rutherford is here to select his dog because of all the isolation issues he faces daily.

"Once we have these dogs we have a companion with us; you know, we don't have that when we come back, everyone seems kind of different," said Rutherford. "That's why the suicide rate is so high."

On July 14th there will be a celebration when all the dogs are matched with veterans and the process will start all over again in a different location.

Dogs for Vets hopes to go national with their program.

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