Begin University of Canine Studies’ Paws for Purple Hearts (PPH), the only program of its kind in the world, builds on the time-honored tradi- tion of soldiers assisting soldiers. PPH helps heal our returning combat vet- erans by teaching those with psychological scars, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), to train service dogs to assist their comrades with physical disabilities.
Healing Psychological Scars
In PPH’s Warrior CARE Program, also known as Canine Assisted Reintegration Experience (CARE), the servicemen and women first train service dogs to respond to more than 90 commands. Using this knowledge and their newly honed training skills, they move on to training dogs to assist with a com- rade with physical injuries. Th e process of training a service dog for a fellow vet- eran can help address many symptoms associated with psychological injuries. It also creates a positive sense of purpose and reinforces the value of military service.
Soldiers who become trainers experi- ence the unconditional love and support of the dogs they are training. Th is connec- tion off ers stress relief as they reintegrate into their communities. Training the dogs also enhances the veterans’ self worth and provides both an opportunity to practice emotional regulation and a reason to participate in new social relationships.
Increased Independence for Those with Physical Injuries
The service dogs are trained to assist their partners by opening doors, retrieving dropped items, and pulling wheelchairs, among many other activities of daily living. Plus, the dog offers unconditional love and acceptance.
Service dogs accompany their partners everywhere – home, work, or wherever their lives take them. In many cases, service dogs perform tasks that were previously handled by an attendant or family member, thus reducing the veteran’s dependence on other people.
Training for Duty at Walter Reed
The first group of service dogs is now being trained for duty at the Walter Reed Warrior Transition Unit in Washington. The nearby Little Rascals Doggie Day Care and Boarding is donating space for the training, which requires 40 hours a week. The dogs start as puppies and graduate when they are one and a half to two years old. Little Rascals’ owner, Deborah Gomes, explains that the dogs also board there during the training, which allows them to enjoy the other benefits of the facility, including romping in the play areas. “We are delighted and grateful to have the opportunity to contribute to such a good cause,” she says.