The National Post on March 4, 2018 stated that “there is a fashion among veterans with post traumatic stress disorder for having therapy dogs accompany them in public places.  Mind you, we are not supposed to call them “therapy dogs”.  That is an insulting term, one that hints that these animals are not as serious, and might not be eligible for the same legal and social deference, as trained dogs for the blind, physically disabled, or cognitively compromised.”

They didn’t stop there, calling a PTSD service dog a fashion accessory wasn’t enough for them they went further to claim that there is no scientific evidence to back up these “therapeutic dogs”, they even ridiculed a hero amongst Canadian Veterans, Medric Cousineau, who has tirelessly championed service dogs for vets with PTSD and found Brian’s, Sasha.

As most of you know Brian’s dog Sasha is the reason he was able to function in the world again after returning home from his last tour to the sandbox (Afghanistan).  At the time he was on a shocking regimen of drugs: psychotropics, sleeping pills, SSRI’s, pain meds… you name it he rattled with it.  He couldn’t function.  He was isolated and in pain both physical and mental.  It was Medric Cousineau who found his cure, a dog called Sasha.  With her by his side he was able to re-enter the world and somewhat bit by bit function again.

The first time Brian took Sasha out though was excruciating.  Here was a visible symbol of his invisible injury.  It says, “there is something wrong with me”.  I have been horrified by the obnoxious comments that often come his way, the ignorance around PTSD service dogs that remains out there.  The first time he was turned away from a restaurant, hurt and humiliated him.  He is in the middle of a Human Rights fight with a taxi firm in Ottawa who refused to take him because he had Sasha with him when he was on the way to the Government’s Mental Health Committee for Veterans.

You can perhaps imagine my deep and seething rage upon reading this appalling post from what I had thought was a reputable media outlet, the National Post.  So, I did as General Hines did, and many others, we approached the Editor and ask that they apologize and post a rebuttal.  They steadfastly refused stating that they fully endorse the article, the comments made in it and the writer, Colby Cosh.

In my emails back and forth with the Editor I pointed out the danger of increasing the stigma around service dogs, how unhelpful it was and how damaging.  I also asked what on earth the point was to vilify one veteran when PTSD is not and never has been a veteran only issue.  To no avail, I might as well have asked a stone to have empathy for the plight of those surviving PTSD.

The rebuttal I posted on their comments is extremely angry and rude, yes I do tell the writer of this awful post that he has a small penis.  Brian did not approve of that at all, but I remain very angry.

This is the full article:

Colby Cosh: Don’t call them therapy dogs: a case study in the Liberal tax-engineering style

Is there science?  Yes, oodles of it and as Medric pointed out PTSD Service dogs and their owners are held to standards that others are not.

Here is my hope: if you care about this issue please share your thoughts with @NationalPost and @AnneMarieOwens.  I see no point in focusing any attention on the individual who wrote this garbage, he clearly has zero respect for any of us fighting MH Stigma.  But should you wish to @ColbyCosh but I warn you there’s very little point, he deleted all tweets except this one from a @MarkGilroyAB who says “You may take some heat for going after the shibboleths of victimhood culture.  Especially when it’s a puppy.”  In other words, Colby Cosh sees veterans as a specific class who live in a state of being a victim.  That their ownership of a PTSD Service dog is simply a statement of their need to remain victims, a victim fashion statement if you will.  And no, that isn’t going to far, I’ve read through the tweets he didn’t delete from his account and that is EXACTLY his view.

 

The Science in Brief behind PTSD Service Dogs

 

Whilst it is true that veterans provided anectodal evidence that service dogs did indeed help them with their PTSD in cases where no other intervention was working (Ruiz, 2012; Winkle, Crowe & Hendrix 2012). Considered an “alternative treatment” they cite that 40% of veterans could be helped who do not experience improvements after participating in treamtsments such as prolonged exposure (PE) and cognitive processing therapy (CPT) which are considered the gold standards for treating PTSD (Monson & Friedman, 2006). At this point I will explain to you, as clearly this has frustrated your limited intelect, why veterans are used as the guinea pigs for PTSD treatments: they are an easily collected data point with comparible exposures.

On the research available on the impact of Service Dogs I refer you to the following: Sachs-Ericsson, Hensen & Fitzgerald 2002 (! go figure and you couldn’t find anything on it); Ruiz, 2012; Winkle, Crowe & Hendrix, 2012; Monson & Friedman 2006; Foremon & Crosson 2012; Esnayra & Love 2005; Hoge 201; Henry & Crowley 2011; Yount, Olmert & Lee 2012; Valsecchi, Prato-Previde, Accorsi & Fallani 2010; Knisely Barker & Barker 2012; Shubert 2012. That’s just for starters.

BIOLOGICAL IMPACT OF SERVICE DOG ON A PTSD SURVIVOR

Yount et al studied the decrease in cardiac reactivity and cortisol levels when a PTSD survivor interacted with his service dog. They measured the reductions in hyperarousal, social isolation, pain and sleep disturbances with the best tools science allows for studying pscyhiatric and neurological injuries. Pleaes read it to glean more on this subject.

Horowitz 2008 measured the increases in oxytocin and dopamine, reduction of cortisol in individuals interacting with their service dogs.

Physiological stress reduction responses were measured and colated by Yount, Olmert & Lee in 2012.

The pathway to the brain that (is believed) to be affected by PTSD is the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis; oxytocin has been shown to decrease cytokines, adrenaocorticotrophic hormone and coritsol which are the active ingredients in the HPA.  Service dogs have been proved to increase the natural production of oxytocin.

Psychological (proven) impact of service dogs for survivors of PTSD.

Valsecchi, Paerto-Previde, Accorsi & Fallani 2010 amongst others cited above studied in depth the “secure base effect” of a service dog. Also, the impact on “attachment”. Now I understand that your grasp of the principles of human psychology are sketchy at best so I will do my darndest to simplify this for you.

“Any relationship in which proximity to the other affects security is an attachment relationship” Escolas & friends in 2012 (FYI this is 2018 but hey I’m sure google was down the day you wrote this.)

Attachment and a secure base are the two things a PTSD survivor does not have. Fixing that is key in their recovery. It allows survivors to reconnect with family and the world at large.

Social level: Sachs-Ericsson & mates all the way back in 2002, go figure, found that individuals with service dogs were less isolated socially and felt more comfortable when initiating social interactions with others, also increased a survivors social desirability (note also that Henry & Crowley 2011 found that a survivors sense of self-worth as well as murturance were enhanced exponentially by having a service dog). Do I need to add the impact of these on a survivor of PTSD’s ability to recover?

Treatment effects of a service dog on a PTSD survivor

86% of individuals in Esnayra & Love 2005 study of those with agoraphobia and anxiety reported a reduction with a service dog. 86%. But that’s nothing right? Still a fashion accessory.

80% respodents diagnosed with PTSD, pani and depression reported a decrease in the MH symptoms they experienced.

40% were able to REDUCE the medications they were prescribed.

 

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