April 4, 2010

Puppies Behind Bars.

I nearly cried, this morning, reading about Puppies Behind Bars.

Prisoners training puppies, funded by our government, for traumatized soldiers? It’s a happy story all the way around, a profiled in today’s New York Times. Excerpt:

Just weeks after Chris Goehner, 25, an Iraq war veteran, got a dog, he was able to cut in half the dose of anxiety and sleep medications he took for post-traumatic stress disorder. The night terrors and suicidal thoughts that kept him awake for days on end ceased.
Aaron Ellis, 29, another Iraq veteran with the stress disorder, scrapped his medications entirely soon after getting a dog — and set foot in a grocery store for the first time in three years…

But when Gloria Gilbert Stoga, who runs Puppies Behind Bars, received an application from Maj. James Becker, she decided, with support from his doctors, to take a chance on a veteran who had just left inpatient care.

Major Becker, 45, suffered two severe brain injuries in separate explosions, earning two Purple Hearts in his three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. When he came home last winter, his 24-year-old daughter, also an Iraq veteran, was being treated for leukemia.

In Major Becker’s mind, home started to resemble Afghanistan’s Helmand Province. His P.T.S.D. symptoms worsened, and a suicide attempt in July landed him in San Diego Naval Medical Center for seven months. A few weeks after leaving the San Diego hospital, Major Becker flew to New York to collect his dog, Annie, and participate in a two-week training session with Puppies Behind Bars. Still, he said he spent a lot of time alone in his room “because it’s easier to deal with four walls than it is to come out and deal with crowds.”

But within days, Annie was beginning to pull him out of his shell. “She helps me meet people,” he said, describing how people are attracted to the dog...for the whole article, and it’s well worth it, click over to the New York Times.


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