After enrolling fewer than two dozen of a planned 230 dogs in the study — all paired with vets with PTSD — the VA has announced that the study has been suspended, and that, from now on, service dogs will only be paired with veterans with visible disabilities.
The new policy goes into effect today.
For the 400,000 veterans diagnosed as having post-traumatic stress disorder, that means dogs — despite all the positive effects that have been reported — will no longer be part of their treatment and recovery.
Among those blasting the decision is the American Humane Association.
Just days before its second annual celebration of hero dogs, the organization took time to put together a petition, calling on the Department of Veterans Affairs to reverse the new policy.
“Our focus on animal-assisted therapy dates back to 1945 when we promoted therapy dogs as a means to help World War II veterans recover from the effects of war,” the AHA said. ”We know from years of experience that the human-animal bond is a source of powerful healing, whether they are children suffering from cancer or military men and women who have suffered the stress of battle.
“Service dogs, in particular, are an amazing, positive resource for assisting our nation’s best and bravest though their physical pain and mental anguish. We call on the VA and the United States Congress to stand up for our veterans…”
Specifically, the new VA policy ends the program that reimbursed veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder for their use of service dogs while in recovery.
“It’s of the utmost importance that we provide our vets with every option available to treat service related ailments,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), who was also shocked to learn of the new policy.
“Especially as the wars are winding down, and more and more soldiers are returning home with mental trauma, the VA must continue to allow their doctors and mental health professionals to provide benefits to veterans who need mental health service dogs,” he said.
Congress mandated that additional scientific study be conducted on the impact of service dogs paired with PTSD vets several years ago. But apparently that study never got off the ground — at least not as ambitiously as planned.
Launched in June 2011, the study planned to follow 230 PTSD vets and their service dogs, tracking them and their families through 2014. Only about a tenth of that number were registered for the study, though.
The study was halted, according to reports, because of concerns about dogs biting children, dirty and cramped living conditions, and faulty record-keeping.
According to the VA, there are about 400,000 veterans currently in treatment for PTSD, and that group has higher than normal rates of divorce, substance abuse, unemployment and suicide. There are 32 to 39 suicide attempts daily among vets with PTSD, about half of which result in death, according to a column by the Chicago Tribune’s Steve Dale.
Dale’s column looks at the benefits of programs such as those provided by Paws for Purple Hearts – an improved quality of life, fewer flashbacks and nightmares. Vets paired with dogs are said to be more likely to find jobs; less likely to become recluses.
“One hallmark of PTSD is avoidance (of going outdoors and socializing with others),” says Robert Porter, executive director 0f Paws for Purple Hearts. “That’s hard to do with a 60-pound dog who just wants to go out and play.”
The study was a chance to prove, beyond the anecdotal, just how much therapy dogs could help vets with PTSD. But, for reasons that make little sense, both the study and the concept were canned.
Most of the dogs in the study were from Guardian Angel Medical Services of Williston, Fla., and its founder and director, Carol Borden, says there were no biting incidents reported.
Borden says that in the organization’s history, veterans with PTSD nearly always benefit from having a dog. Some patients have been able to cut their medication in half, or stop taking it altogether, she said.
That has raised questions among some about whether pharmaceutical companies lobbied for the new VA policy. That’s conjecture, of course — conjecture being something that tends to occur when no logical explanation is given.
The VA owes vets, not to mention Congress, an explanation.
And we all owe veterans afflicted with PSTD a chance to get past it, or at least cope with it. Ruling out dogs and dropping the study is an oath broken, a promising avenue bypassed, and a slap in the face to veterans.
“We’ve not experienced a single suicide attempt as far as we know,” Borden said of vets paired with dogs under the Guardian Angels program. “I have letters from wives thanking us because the husband has returned, and it all happens because of a dog who provides unconditional love.”
Posted by jwoestendiek October 5th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aha, american humane association, animals, benefits, ceased, charles schumer, congress, department, disabilities, divorce, dog, dogs, dropped, drug abuse, employment, funding, guardian angel medical services, halted, paws for purple hearts, petition, pets, post traumatic stress disorder, programs, promised, ptsd, ptsd dogs, reimburse, reimbursement, senator, service, study, suicide, terminated, therapy, va, vet, veterans, veterans affairs
A suburban Cincinnati dog park is getting a massive mural — and no, it’s not advertising — that celebrates dogs, covers up an unsightly old lock-testing chamber alongside the Ohio River, and gives local artists some paying work.
The makeover is being done by a team of artists and students from ArtWorks, a local organization that connects student apprentices with professional artists to create public art around the Greater Cincinnati area.
About 20 dogs will be featured on the wall – all of them depictions of real pets who visit the members-only dog park — along with a famous quote from Plato:
“Life must be lived as play.”
The idea of painting the concrete structure that sits in the middle of Kellogg Park’s dog field in Anderson Township was put forth by resident Claudia Cline, who regularly visits the dog field with her beagle-mix, Pflash.
“I absolutely love it, … and it represents the dogs beautifully,” Cline told the Community Press & Recorder. “Not only does the park benefit, but the kids get jobs as artists. The whole area looks totally improved and like somewhere you’d want to hang out.”
Student apprentices are working with lead artist Elizabeth Hatchett and assistant teaching artist Laura McNeel to put a new face on the former lock-testing facility.
“We wanted it to be fun and whimsical, and we wanted to show the playfulness of dogs,” said Susan Romer, one of the student artists working on the mural. “It represents the dogs’ personalities and we tried to show each dog as they really are.”
The mural should be finished by November.
Cline said about $2,500 still needs to be raised for the project. About $32,000 has already been taken in through private donations from the owners of the dogs on the wall or those who support public art.
(Photo: Lisa Wakeland / The Community Press)
Posted by jwoestendiek September 28th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: anderson township, animals, apprentices, art, artists, artworks, cincinnati, claudia cline, concrete, dog park, dogs, donations, employment, kellogg park, lock testing chamber, mentors, mural, ohio river, painting, park, pets, plato, program, work
(For other tips on how not to find a job, send me $29.99 and a self-addressed stamped envelope, and then another $29.99, followed by a third and final payment of $29.99.)
But back to The Dog Lady. (That’s not her in the photo; it’s a woman in Montana who knits with dog hair.)
A reader wrote the following to The Dog Lady:
“As a small-business owner, I recently was looking to hire a counter clerk with some technical know-how. I had quite a few applicants, including a woman I was keen to employ. In the second interview, however, she arrived wearing a striking wool vest, which she said she had knitted from the fur of her Bernese mountain dog.
This led to a long discussion of how she collected the sloughed dog fur, sent it away to be spun into yarn and knitted the sweater. It was too much information and kind of disgusted me. I ended up not hiring her and have felt guilty ever since. What’s your take on people who knit their pet? — Amy
The Dog Lady, aka Monica Collins, notes that people who make clothing from the sheddings of their dog may be perceived as eccentric — even though it’s really not that different from clothing made from the harvested fur of sheep.
Dog Lady, who refers to herself in the third person, says she personally ”cannot imagine wearing a garment knit from the hair of her dog.” But she gives the knitter points for inventiveness — even if the dog hair vest might not be included in most “what to wear for a job interview” tipsheets.
And she tells the letter writer: “As a business owner, you are free to hire whom you choose. And in this free country, there are no laws on the books pertaining to those who discriminate against people who wear dog hair couture to the workplace.”
Being an expert on unemployment, if not dogs, and having addressed this issue before, I would add this. Knitting clothing items from dog hair — though a lot of work — isn’t that new or unusual. Wearing them is not really all that freakish.
But given the country’s job situation, it might be best to wait on wearing fashions made from Fido, at least until you get the job, and it’s Bring Your Dog to Work Day.
(Photo: Larry Beckner / Great Falls Tribune)
Posted by jwoestendiek June 8th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: advice, animals, applicants, attire, bernese mountain dog, bizarre, cleveland plain dealer, clothing, column, dog, dogs, eccentric, employers, employment, etiquette, fur, hair, how-to, impressions, job seeking, jobs, knit, knitters, knitting, monica collins, pets, proper, seeking, sheddings, sweaters, the dog lady, vests, yarn
Have I got a job for you – a federal government one, no less — but unfortunately there’s only one opening.
The National Park Service is looking for someone to mush through the Alaskan wilderness amid the heart-stopping beauty of Denali National Park and Preserve.
The job title is “kennel manager,” and it does require running Denali’s 31-animal dog kennel, but it also affords ample opportunity to mush, mostly to rescue lost and stranded park visitors.
It pays between $33,477 and $66,542 a year, and out of the 19.7 million federal government jobs, it’s the only one that requires mushing, according to an Anchorage Daily News report. Here’s the actual listing.
“Our candidate must be a strong leader with supervisory skills and will be relied upon to provide all manner of services as a park ranger — from rescuing visitors and patrolling the park wilderness to presenting educational programs and community outreach,” the park’s superintendent said in a news release.
As much as 70% of the winter is spent mushing through Denali’s wilderness on patrol, or to ferry supplies, or take researchers to various parts of the park. Feeding, breeding, training and picking up after dogs are among the duties, and, being a government job, you can rest assured there’s plenty of paperwork involved, but it offers plenty of time in the great, and very cold, outdoors.
The job’s current occupant, Karen Fortier, a Connecticut native who held the post for nearly 10 years, said it’s not cold toes that’s leading to her departure, but a second daughter, born a year ago. The time away from her family became more than she was willing to put up with.
Posted by jwoestendiek November 17th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alaska, alaskan, denali, employment, federal, government, job, jobs, kennel manager, listing, mush, musher, mushing, national park, national park service, opportunity, preserve, ranger, wilderness
It was the sort of scene I can’t walk past: A muttly looking dog, a white-bearded homeless guy and a handmade cardboard sign offering: “Dog Tricks 1$.”
On the sidewalk along Franklin Street — the main drag in Chapel Hill — Mark Williams, after offering me some room on his bench, said he and his dog, Two Beans, have been homeless for about a year. “Work’s kind of slow now” in the construction /handyman/odd jobs field, he explained.
The dog trick — Two Beans knows only one — helps rake in enough money for meals.
I’d gone to Chapel Hill for a meeting of the Board of Advisers of the University of North Carolina’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, an esteemed panel on which I still serve, despite having left my most recent newspaper job a year ago, and despite – other than doing some revisions on the book I left the business to write, and writing this website — being unemployed.
Twice a year at UNC, members of the board gather to hear what the school is up to in terms of research, fund-raising and curriculum changes, which are coming pretty fast and furious nowadays as the industry, facing declining profits, continues to try to pull new tricks out of its hat, or in some cases get a whole new hat.
This meeting was a special one because it’s the journalism school’s 100 birthday — a benchmark the university’s basketball program also hit this year. That’s pretty old, but there are older journalism schools, I learned during the festivities, such as the highly respected one at the University of Missouri, which was the nation’s first.
Getting ready to pick up my dog Ace (who I’d dropped off for a bath during the meeting) and leave town, I was walking down Franklin Street. Doing that always triggers memories of my days as a student. Thirty-four years ago, I was getting ready to graduate with my degree in journalism, and I was sending job applications to newspapers across the country. I used the seventy-some rejection letters I got then to wallpaper my room.
It dawned on me that, today, I’m in sort of the same situation – job hunting, getting a few rejections, and much more often getting no response at all. At least in the good old days they sent you a form letter. Today, many companies often don’t even bother to acknowledge receipt of your application. While students are still finding jobs, the journalism job market — like journalism — seems tighter, shallower and meaner than ever.
So bleak, in fact, that when I saw Mark Williams’ sign, I ever so briefly considered getting my own piece of cardboard, picking up my dog and setting up shop on the next bench down, offering higher-priced, upscale dog tricks (the Starbucks approach) for $5 to cover gas for my trip home.
Two Beans’ trick requires a dollar bill. Having only a $10, I asked Williams if that would work. He pocketed the ten dollar bill and pulled from his other pocket a crumpled one dollar bill. “Now go back in that alley and hide it somewhere, and Two Beans will find it.”
I wedged the bill behind a drainpipe, about waist high, and sure enough, Two Beans, when I called, came around the corner sniffed around, pulled it out, and brought it dutfifully to his master.
Williams got the dog from a friend, shortly before he began a stretch of life on the streets. He named him Two Beans, he said, because the dog — a golden retriever-Rhodesian ridgeback mix, he suspects — is not neutered. Williams said police don’t give him any trouble about his street business. “They’d rather me do this than just be panhandling like these other guys,” he said.
In addition to providing some income — as much as $70 a day when there’s a home football game – Two Beans makes life on the streets “a little less miserable,” Williams said. He said teaching Two Beans the trick cost him $3, because the dog ate the first three dollar bills
As we sat and talked, Williams, originally from Greenville, N.C., revealed that he once wrote a book about dog training. It was only 20 pages and, so it wouldn’t cost him much to mail it out, weighed only an ounce. “It was basically plagiarized, and not very good.” He took out an ad in the National Enquirer, offering the mini-book for sale for $3. He says he only sold two copies, one to a customer in Virginia Beach, another to a customer in Acapulco — making him, he joked, an “international author.”
When he learned I was a former newspaper reporter, Williams revealed that his family was in journalism as well: His grandfather, Walter Williams, founded the journalism school at the University of Missouri.
“That’s the nation’s first journalism school,” I said.
“Yup,” he answered.
Coincidentally, I’d also recently applied for a job there, in my continuing quest to sniff out writing/teaching/multi-media positions. I received an emailed rejection, one of at least a dozen so far.
I don’t print out my emailed rejections. They don’t have the cool logos on them that I once found decorative enough to serve as wall art. I think I also take them a little more personally, now that I have experience and credentials. So I won’t be using them as wallpaper — either the kind you put on your wall, or the kind on your computer.
Instead, I’ll keep plugging along, like Williams, and waiting for the better times I keep hearing are ahead.
Until then … dog trick, anyone?
Posted by jwoestendiek October 20th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: application, chapel hill, dog, dog tricks, economy, employment, franklin street, homeless, job, job market, jobs, journalism, journalism school, mark williams, mass communication, north carolina, one dollar dog tricks, panhandle, rejection, school, two beans, university of missouri, university of north carolina