A Soldier’s Best Friend…

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Sergeant 1st Class Zeke, a 5-year-old Labrador retriever, calms a visitor at a combat-stress clinic at Kandahar, Afghanistan.

The Army’s Medical Department just published a journal devoted to the use of dogs in Army medicine. I wanted to highlight the publication here on Time’s Battleland. Both dog- and soldier-lovers can read it for free.

Army medicine has been using dogs to work with combat stress-control teams in theater since about 2007.  Dogs assist occupational therapists with wounded warriors. There is increasing interest in using dogs to assist with symptoms of PTSD and TBI. Wounded Soldiers train rescue dogs to either be adoptable, or to become service animals for other wounded Soldiers.

“Many readers who have pets or other involvement with animals in their lives will probably not be particularly surprised at the descriptions of human reactions to the presence of the dogs depicted in these articles,” Major General David Rubenstein, head of the Army Medical Department Center and School, writes. “Although attempts to systematically quantify and scientifically evaluate the results of animal-assisted therapy have been and will continue to be made, for now the anecdotal evidence of its overwhelmingly positive impact is not only encouraging, but also substantial enough to support its continuation.”

Of course, it is not just the Army, but that Service has been in the lead.  The National Intrepid Center of Excellence is now doing some critically important scientific research in the area.

Much of what was done in the past was done based on enthusiasm and  self-reports of good results. We wanted to move the field from anecdote to science. The just-published journal has both.

It also has some great pictures.