Coping

Pets & PTSD – How You & Your Dog Can Save A Life

I’ve heard it said, several times, that becoming a parent is an experience that it’s impossible to understand without having lived the experience.

My husband and I are currently (and, fortunately, happily) child-free, but I can completely understand this statement to be true. How? I hope I’m not going to rub anyone’s fur backwards with this next statement, but it’s a similar situation with animals: Until you’ve been a pet owner, it’s impossible to go back.

And, yes, I’m saying this in the hope that there’ll be enough fellow crazy cat (or dog) owners out there who have my back on this one.

In all seriousness, though, having a pet is awesome. It’s all too easy to underestimate the affection, attention, and remarkable intelligence of an animal until you live with one (or two, or three). In my case, my husband and I share a house with two of the floppiest, smartest cats I’ve ever known; ask any of my friends, and they’ll vouch for me, our cats are like dogs. The right pet is loyal, loving, and ultimately as much a part of the family as any member who is blessed with upright posture and opposable thumbs.

Recently, some friends of mine have been participating in a challenge where one performs 22 push-ups a day to raise awareness for PTSD sufferers. As such, I too have been learning far more about PTSD than I ever knew before, and, honestly, I was floored by the statistics. To find that an average of 22 veterans commit suicide each day made my heart heavy; I couldn’t believe it. I wouldn’t believe it. And yet, there it was: A cold, hard statistic that rings like tinnitus in the ears.

On a positive note, one key fact that really stood out to me is that one of the most effective treatments for those with PTSD is pet therapy. Pet therapy! What a neat idea, I thought. But then I was asking questions: How is this so? What is it about pets that make such a simple, effective treatment? We love them, of course, because they’re cute and smart…but specifically, what is it about dogs that proves so useful to PTSD sufferers?

I did some digging, and here are the answers.

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