Two stories: one hopeful, one skeptical.
First up, from the NY Times: For the Battle-Scarred, Comfort at Leash’s End. 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.Full story and audio slide show here. Photo at top left by Stephen Crowley for The New York Times.
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.
The dogs to whom they credit their improved health are not just pets. Rather, they are psychiatric service dogs specially trained to help traumatized veterans leave the battlefield behind as they reintegrate into society.
Because of stories like these, the federal government, not usually at the forefront of alternative medical treatments, is spending several million dollars to study whether scientific research supports anecdotal reports that the dogs might speed recovery from the psychological wounds of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Next: can dogs follow a six month old track? And if they can't, how is it that two search dogs — a yellow Labrador and a German short-haired pointer —
The handlers, Sarah Platts and Julie R. Jones, partners at Virginia-based VK9 Scent Specific Search and Recovery Unit, say their highly trained dogs possess specialized skills that have made believers of many families and police agencies.The article is online now, and will be on the front page of Monday's print edition of the L.A. Times: Dogged faith in these trackers.
"It's a revelation for some folks," said Platts, 48, adding that her volunteer organization has helped authorities gather evidence on numerous murder and missing-person cases.
Dog handler organizations are skeptical. Their profession, members say, has been undermined over the years by handlers claiming amazing crime-busting abilities who were later exposed as frauds. They say Quincy and Jack's work was an incredible coincidence or a calculated hoax.
Attributing heroic skills to lovable dogs is natural but invites false hope, said Roger Titus, a trainer with the National Police Bloodhound Assn.