Combat PTSD: Barks from Bagdad; Great Story!

Though the program certainly helps many of the animals who struggle for survival in countries where they are not accepted socially, this was not the intention of the SPCA.

Rather, it was a response to the strength of the relationships soldiers formed with the animals, which ultimately boosted morale and helped them through some very difficult times.   Many soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan have admitted that having something to care had a powerful impact on their lives. Recent studies have also shown that those who returned from combat with a pet had a much easier time negotiating civilian life and a decreased occurrence of ptsd symptoms.

Perhaps the most significant reason for this is that when the soldier returns to civilian life they have something in their lives that can relate to their experiences overseas.

The animal was there with them and shared something. One of the most difficult aspects of returning to civilian life is the feeling that nobody understands what you have been through.

Full article here; http://ptsd.kpaulmedical.com/2012/02/barks-from-baghdad/

I finally decided it did not matter if no one understood me.  That was fine because I would not either, unless I walked this path.  How can you describe how something quite minor to all, triggers us to fear for our life.

6 responses to this post.

  1. Paulann, may I ask what do you think this connection does to help with trauma and adjusting.

  2. Some of the things I was thinking about are…

    Soldiers reaching out to engage with an animal, to care for and protect while in a war zone may allow them to stay open to feeling love and connection. I imagine it can be easy to shut that part of ourself off when in those horrific circumstances. I think there are shades of what Viktor Frankl determined while in the holocaust concentration camps, that he would choose to find a purpose above the evil of that place. He began to know that choosing to find something of value would be the only way he would survive that experience emotionally, if he survived physically.

    I could see bringing that same animal home as both a powerful transition pathway back to daily life apart from war, and the presence of “someone” who knows, bears witness to what the soldier experienced.

    The power of animals to connect, to hear, when there are no words to describe our pain brings acceptance and healing.

    I hope I answered your question, Marty. Let me know if I didn’t understand what you were asking. ~ Paulann

  3. I agree with all of what you say. I do not see trauma as a choice, though. yes being open and as aviktor Frankl said we did not turn away from suffering we chose as humans to stay present and endure rather than avoid. Yes.

    I was thinking about PTSD and how it manifests itself. Peak results do not happen for twenty years. many world war two vets did not manifest PTSD until later in life, when sickness or stress finally unleash the flood of cortisol.

    How does an animal prevent trauma or feeling you are not different. How does a pet influence a soldiers either getting PTSD or saving him from the trauma he had experienced.

    I am currently reading a book by a lt colonel who was psychologist and has studied killing and its effect on man. He states that before Vietnam 80% of soldiers were not fighting. By that I mean they were not firing their guns or they were but not aiming.

    Detailed Annonymous interviews have confirmed this along with statistics from battles. At Gettysburg, I think they found an extra 25, 00rifles, these are the one you take the long poker and put the poweder in and it takes forever to load. 12,000 had not been fired and something like 7,000 of them had from one to three full charges in them.

    One has 13 loads. Thusnis in a time when guns were not loaded for 95% of the time. Reloading consumed all the time, so another soldier would definitely pick a loaded weapon up.

    So they author states that men have a reisitence to killing and it has ratios to distance on the battlefield. Those who refused to fight or fire were not cowards, they did not run. They pitched in and supported the ones who,would kill. All this seemed to be common knowledge by never openly admitted.

    The men who could not kill had a strange affect on the ones who,could, it encouraged them and that is why some killed so many because others were supporting loading or doing something to keep the killers going. All accepted this some how.

    The guilt of the non killers became intense when other friends and company mates were killed and they did not perform their given duty.

    The next parameter was distance. Bombers and artillery were impervious to PTSD because of the distance from the killing they were doing. We have drones these days.

    Then the closer you got the more PTSD surfaced. In a battle you could say that you did not see someone directly die from your actions.

    Some of the more intense was knowing it was up to you to kill and you were close. In world war one planes did not engage in combat dogfights all the time because planes were slow enough pilots could see each others eyes and face.

    Then one other thing was interesting. 2% of the population is impervious to killing and trauma.

    How would a dog prevent a soldier from this experience?

  4. It sounds like you think I am saying a dog can prevent trauma. I don’t see the experience of trauma as a choice. So, I don’t think having a pet keeps a person from experiencing trauma. I do think connection with animals could help a person find his or her way back from trauma, could help us maintain connection on the heels of trauma.

    I think of trauma as happening on a continuum. The interviews you refer to note that different people respond to their experiences differently. I have never been in combat, but my dad was a B-17 radio operator in the WW II European theatre. His plane was shot down over Germany, forcing bail out. Half the crew was lost. My dad was never diagnosed with PTSD, and I don’t know that he would have met the criteria for the diagnosis. I can say without hesitation that he had several traumatic experiences in the course of his service. It was 40+ years before he began to talk about the impact of those experiences.

    We can benefit from developing emotional health. I don’t think any amount of emotional health guarantees we will avoid trauma. I think our degree of emotional health can help determine the impact of the trauma and our ability to find our way back.

    I don’t think a dog is a magic prevention tool or a sure cure. I do think a dog could help us feel a little less alone while we’re navigating the path. Thanks for posting the article and generating the discussion. ~ Paulann

  5. Excellent, I agree totally. Prevention of trauma maybe not possible.

    We could now, test our soldiers with the new cortisol level test when waking and theen a half hour later to determine if the soldiier nervous system was more likely to experience trauma. Next we could keep the ones with a traumatized childhood to support duties.

    Third we could develop mindfulness programs before deploymnet so they can handle things better and have a way to let the mind rest.

    The quicker help is given after a trauma incident the better. Why not equip our soldiers with a way to reach the emotional control center and repair mental stress.

    my take. thanks Paulann

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