Therapy Dog Helps Soldiers Conquer PTSD

Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental condition commonly found in veteran soldiers. The condition is triggered by a traumatic event, and the person who experienced or witnessed it doesn't feel the emotional ramifications until about three months later. Many people with PTSD have nightmares, anxiety and flashbacks centering around the event. Soldiers who deal with PTSD commonly feel agitated and have a hard time talking about their war experience.

Such is the case with Staff Sgt. Dennis Swols, who participated in the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and the march into Baghdad in 2003, and is part of the 82nd Airborne's 4th Brigade Combat Team. Swols has been diagnosed with PTSD and regularly meets with a psychiatrist and therapy dog, Lexy. Lexy, who is a German Shepard, is the only certified animal at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where Swols is stationed. The cuddly dog has made a difference in Swols's therapy.

"I have a hard time talking to people about my deployments and everything," Swols told the Associated Press. "But having her here, I just pet Lexy. Or I'm just sitting here and we won't talk about deployments, we'll just (talk) about the dog. … My day is better every time I come in."

Lexy has helped Swols slowly tackle his traumatic experience with a professional. He can stay calm with the dog's help and move past the scars the war has left him.

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