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Veterans Transition with Canine Help

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November 11, 2013 — The road back to a normal life in the United States will take a lot of work for a group of veterans and their helpers on four legs.

Amanda Trujillo spent six years in the U.S. Army as a truck driver.  Two days before her deployment to Iraq she fell, “I let the TMZ know that I had a big bruise on my hip.  I was in pain and could hardly walk, let alone run and do PT.  They checked me out and said I didn’t have a break or a fracture, but never looked for a dislocation.  I spent the whole year in Iraq with a dislocated hip,” Trujillo said.

Both hips ultimately suffered.  After surgery, one of the hips got worse.  That’s where her buddy Jake comes into play.  The two joined the Pets N Vets program at the Dunes Dog Training Club in Hebron where Jake received the Canine Good Citizen seal of approval for good obedience and is now working towards becoming a service dog.

Trujillo, who walks with a limp and suffers from mental illness, hopes Jake can be on hand to help save her life, “We’re teaching him right now how to go get my medicine.   Right now, it’s not the medicine bottle right now because he won’t get the medicine bottle. We started training with a toy or a treat and have him go a little bit at a time.”

Merrillville resident David Horton lived through three deployments to Iraq.  The combat medic developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and anxiety from seeing the country in three different stages.

“A lot of the dynamics of the war changed.  For a lot of the guys who had been in there during the invasion, the rules changed and a lot of the rules of engagement as far as the war changed,” said Horton.

Horton found Pets N Vets on Facebook in search of ways to deal with the emotional effects from what he saw.

When asked about what he hopes to accomplish from the program he said, “Alternative therapy other than medications and a lot of the talk therapy that a lot of the other therapist were providing.”

By his side is his dog, Raven, who began training at nine-weeks-old.  Now a year old, he hopes he can navigate his way back into society with her help.

“The dog being a barrier in between me and another individual if I thought that I was starting to feel uncomfortable or starting to feel anxious.  Its different techniques, such as those, that I could definitely benefit from something like this,” Horton stated.

Princess and Cedar Lake resident Tamara Carter are also in the program.  Carter, who spent four years in the Navy during the initial invasion into Afghanistan, found the right prescription for her depression.

“She’ll come and constantly lick my face if I’m feeling down.  She’ll let me hold her and give me that cuddle aspect of feeling that someone’s there for me even when I don’t feel like someone’s there,” Carter said.

She was diagnosed with depression in 2005, just two years after being part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“Whatever was causing me to go into this spiral of depression, it’s like she’ll remind me that she’s there.  We have to go outside, we have to go potty, we have to go eat.  I can’t stay here, I have to get out of bed.  Usually, once I get out of bed and take care of her, it’s like now what do we do?”

In the future, Horton wants conflict to be resolved with peace.

“I just wish there was an easier way to go about overcoming conflict rather than having to send thousands of troops into a war zone.  Half of them suffering from the same problems that I have and causing so much damage in the process.”

The vets are a work in progress, but the pets in training will help them reach their goals.

The Pets N Vets program takes donations via the Dunes Dog Training Club, 110 N. Main Street in Hebron.  The donations should be make in care of the Pets N Vets program.  The program is free for veterans, and donations are needed.

By Renetta DuBose

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