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David Mittleman
David Mittleman
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Man's Best Friend Offers Hope to Veterans

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The rate of suicide has upticked among veterans–so high that health experts are desperate to find some way to help our wounded service people when they come back home. One thing is for certain: a wound does not have to be physically visible for it to exist. In fact, many service people come back with an invisible, mental wound such as PTSD. In fact, there are an estimated 1 in 5 troops affected by PTSD or major depression. But there may be hope beyond medication for those who suffer from PTSD, and it appears in a seemingly unlikely place.

Man's best friend is offering new hope to service people suffering from debilitating physical and mental health problems after serving our country. Some of these service people could barely manage to leave their homes before seeking the assistance of a dog. Take James McQuoid, who recalls painful memories from serving in Iraq. These memories used to send him into a severe emotional paralysis that would leave him confused and unable to remember how he got somewhere. But Operation Freedom Paws, a non-profit that provides service people with a service dog, has changed McQuoid's life.

Dogs can be trained in special ways to help service people. For example, McQuoid's dog Iggie helps wake him up from bad nightmares, turns off lights, and helps to create space between McQuoid and others in public places. Iggie also helps McQuoid with his anxiety in public places or stressful situations. Operation Freedom Paws was started by Mary Cortani, who served from 1975-1984 in the Army. She says that she understands the painful experience of trying to adjust back to civilian life and did extensive research on PTSD before establishing her non-profit. Cortani's non-profit has changed many veterans' lives and McQuoid is living proof of that. He says that his nightmares have decreased and he is able to take his wife and son out to movies and restaurants without experiencing the debilitating memories of the past.