Treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – Canines to the Rescue.

In this week’s Raising Your Paws Podcast, episode 27, talking about post-traumatic stress disorder, I mentioned that psychotherapy, or talk therapy, has not been that successful in helping our combat war veterans that suffer PTSD. This is because of the way our brains are designed. It has to do with what is called, brain laterality.  There are two sides, or hemispheres of our brain.  Simply put, one side, stores all adversities/traumas in the limbic system which is the emotional seat of the brain. The other side, has the function of understanding language and producing speech. The traumatic memories that keep repeating themselves in victims of PTSD are encoded in the side of the brain that is not responsible for speech.  Since speech has no bearing on the side where the trauma is stored, and language does not have any bearing on the limbic system, this is why simply talking about the experiences does not rid a veteran of the flashbacks or night terrors.  Talking can assist vets in coming to terms about why they have post tramatic stress, but it is not effective in changing the pictures and memories that are stored in the limbic system. In other terms, words do not access where the trauma is stored in the brain that causes the vet to keep reliving the horrific experiences. There are other techniques used along with talk therapy that does work and medications are used to increase the brains ability for the two sides to better  “communicate” with one another. It is however, the non-verbal methods, that seem to be proving highly effective in treating PTSD. Such as participating in art or music or establishing a relationship with a DOG!

Rufus, a dog rescued from Afghanistan matched with a Marine veteran, Matthew. (photo credit: War Dogs Making It Home, Inc.)


There is a program located in Chicago, Illiniois, called War Dogs Making it Home, founded by Elana Morgan and run by Elana and Eva Braverman. Their mission is to help veterans better manage the invisible and lifelong challenges of post-traumatic stress disorder and brain injury (PTSD/TBI) by pairing them with dogs they rescue from shelters and then train  to be their service dogs. The vets are saving the dogs lives and the dogs are saving theirs, creating a better life for both.

Here are some photos of the veterans and their dogs.  Then listen to the podcast to hear all about how PTSD affects the daily lives of the vets, where the dogs come from, what the dogs learn to do, and how a veteran’s life can be changed dramatically for the better, once they have a dog watching their back.

During training. There is no charge for the veterans to take part in this program. A vet does need to apply to the program.
Every service dog in the War Dogs Making it Home program is a rescue. It is the cornerstone of their mission. The veterans save the dog and the dog saves the veteran. Elana Morgan, founder, is in the middle of the photo.
If you know of a vet who could benefit from the program or would like to donate, please contact War Dogs Making it Home. Contact links are below.


Resources for Raising Your Paws, Episode 27.

Resource for Story about Guard Barking:


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