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Tag: healing

Dogs help heal wounds in war-torn Uganda


Eleven years after a civil war in Uganda, many are still coping with the scars it left — inside and out — and some are finding that a dog can help them do that.

That was the case with Francis Okello Oloya, who in 2015 started The Comfort Dog Project to help people in Gulu town, especially those who were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety.

At age 12, Okello was blinded by a bomb blast as he worked in the family garden. At a boarding school for the blind, Okello found it difficult to find the toilet at night.

“I had to navigate my way from the sleeping quarter to latrine and that was not easy,” he told the Voice of America. “And these dogs came to know that I needed help. And they began the practice of helping me from the sleeping quarters to the latrine.”

Now 29, he’s in charge of a program that matches street dogs with war’s victims, providing comfort to those victims, homes for those street mutts, and adding to a growing recognition in Uganda of what dogs are capable of.

Traditionally, dogs have mainly been used for hunting in Uganda, or for security.

The Comfort Dog Project is an offshoot of Big Fix Uganda, a nonprofit working to improve the lives of dogs and people in the impoverished and war-torn country.

As explained on the Comfort Dogs website, dogs in need of homes are rehabilitated by a team of trainers, temperament tested and spayed/neutered. They are then placed with war trauma survivors who agree to care for the dog for its lifetime and go through a week of training.

uganda2After graduating, the dog-guardian teams become project ambassadors — visiting villages and schools to
educate others about the importance of being kind to animals, teach them to use positive reinforcement training techniques and “serve as testimony of the healing power of human-dog bonds.”

In the aftermath of the civil war in Uganda, tens of thousands of people still struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder and mental health practitioners estimate that seven in 10 people in Northern Uganda were traumatically affected.

Philda Akum, 35, is one of the 29 beneficiaries of the project, Voice of America reports.

In 1997, she and her four brothers were abducted by those rebelling against the government and taken to Sudan.

One brother was captured and killed, Akum says. Another brother was selected to go to the battlefront and was fatally shot. Two days later, her youngest brother contracted cholera and died.

She returned home and joined group therapy, which is what led her to be assigned a dog.

The Big Fix operates the only veterinary hospital in northern Uganda and works to achieve a sustainable population of dogs and cats and control the spread of rabies and other diseases.

(Photo: Francis Okello Oloya, founder of The Comfort Dog Project, with Binongo; Philda Akum, a former war victim, with her dog; by H. Athumani, Voice of America)

Burned dog and burned girl are now a team

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A Chihuahua that was left at a California shelter after suffering chemical burns as a puppy has found a new home with a 12-year-old girl in Alameda who is still undergoing treatment for burns she received as a baby.

Chloe Levenson, who has been through seven surgeries since being scalded by hot tea, adopted the dog — named Fireman — last week.

They were brought together when a Pittsburg animal rescue group, Umbrella of Hope, decided the traumatized dog might get along best with an owner who had experienced similar pain, according to an article in the San Jose Mercury-News.

While thousands of people applied to adopt Fireman, the group thought the dog, who has some behavioral problems, would be a good fit with an owner who might have some extra compassion for him.

Rescuers found the puppy behind Antioch’s animal shelter on March 30 with severe chemical burns running the entire length of his belly and up to his ears, both of which had to be amputated.

After months of medical care, paid for my Umbrella of Hope, Fireman recovered physically, but was diagnosed as having post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the burns.

“He had a lot of strings attached,” said Kristy Keusch, who fostered the dog for four months after his release from the hospital.

Fireman didn’t always like being petted. Although he loved having someone rub what was left of his ears, he disliked being touched on his head and neck, Keusch said.

“He punctured me a few times,” she recalled.

She used behavior modification techniques to make Fireman more trusting and less defensive, but she knew that whoever adopted him would have to commit to continuing the work.

When Umbrella of Hope put out some feelers, Shriners Hospital for Children responded and put the organization in touch with Chloe and her family.

After a few meetings, Chloe took the dog home last week.

Although he still growls and nips, Fireman is already letting her touch his head and will cuddle on the couch with Chloe when she watches TV. But he “absolutely hates leashes,” she said.

“I understand him,” Chloe told the organization. “I know what he’s been through, and I think he understands me too.”

(Photo by Kristopher Skinner / Bay Area News Group)

Ruby reassembled

Ruby the lurcher

A team of 40 vets and nurses, working around the clock for over two months, helped reassemble a three-year-old dog named Ruby after she was hit by a car.

After  a series of operations at a cost of £11,500, Ruby, who remained cheerful and upbeat throughout the ordeal, is recovering, according to the Daily Mail.

Ruby suffered fractures to her two front legs, sternum and toe, a dislocated knee, ruptured ligaments and internal bleeding when she was struck by the car on January 26.

Because she did not have any head injuries, the vets said if she could live through the next 24 hours she had a good chance.

“Her legs will take about five months to heal totally but in herself she is happy, sweet-natured and an inspiration to the rest of us,” said her owner, Vanessa Gillespie. “The vet said he had never seen a dog so broken still so happy. Most dogs would not have survived but Ruby is a toughie.’

Ruby was run over in the village of Cambourne in Cambridgeshire.

Rubys Injuries.jpg

She spent five weeks at Queen’s Veterinary School Hospital in Cambridge, and had two major operations — first a nine-hour procedure in which her broken legs were repaired using four metal plates and screws, then a seven-hour operation to replace the ruptured knee ligaments, carry out skin grafts and amputate the broken toe. The fractured breastbone and internal bleeding were left to heal naturally.

Gillespie said most of the bill was covered by insurance. “If she had not been insured we would have had to put her down,” she said.

Paws in the pews: Ministry dogs

Mosby, a 3-year-old golden retriever who was deemed too friendly for work as an assistance dog for the disabled, has found a purpose in God’s house.

Mosby is a ministry dog, one of a growing breed of assistance dogs assigned to clergy and church workers. He was featured in a Boston Globe article yesteday.

A few times each week, Mosby visits hospitals and assisted living centers. But his busiest day is Sunday, when he can be found in a pew alongside his owners, Lynda and Larry Fisher, at the First Baptist Church of Littleton, where they are longtime members and he’s the official greeter.

“A dog ministry breaks down barriers right away,’’ said the Rev. Deborah Blanchard. “It helps put aside the barriers and connect on a real level to offer comfort and love.’’

The idea of a formal training program for ministry dogs sprang up just over a decade ago, when a divinity student and dog lover made a case to NEADS, Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans, a nonprofit organization based in Princeton, Mass., that is one of the nation’s largest assistance-dog training programs.

“She explained how she’d be going to hospices and working with the elderly and sick children, all populations who can’t have a dog but could really benefit,’’ said Sheila O’Brien, the agency’s chief executive officer. “She said, ‘You know, Sheila, dog spelled backwards is God.’ ’’

NEADS has trained more than 15 dogs as ministry dogs since 1998.

Lynda Fisher approached NEADS  last year in hopes of being matched with a ministry dog afer she and her husband, Larry, lost their dog, a 15-year-old Brittany spaniel named Jessie.

“I told them, ‘I’m a deaconess at my church. Part of my duties is to visit the sick and infirm, and it would go so much better with a dog,’ ’’ Fisher recalled.

Although the dogs are generally designated for ministers, Fisher’s 40-year affiliation with First Baptist and enthusiastic devotion to her faith, and to dogs, won her an exception to the rule.

Healing Hector

It may not take a village to save a dog, but the more people that pitch in, the easier it is.

Take Hector. His headed-for-a-happy-ending story is the kind that happens thousands of times a day. At it’s simplest, it’s merely a matter of well-intentioned people communicating. But when you take a closer look, it’s amazing, and a little inspiring, how many people can get involved to save one dog.

First, in Hector’s case, came the animal control officers who swooped him up.

Found wandering at a Baltimore park, Hector — believed to be, beneath all his scraggliness, an American Eskimo dog — was taken to Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter (BARCS), where staff and volunteers cared for him, gave him a name, arranged to have him neutered, and assessed his temperament and condition. The former was fine. The latter needed some work.

Hector was not just underweight. He was toothless.

He showed no other apparent injuries, but some suspect Hector, because his teeth appear to have been pulled, might have been used as a “bait dog” by dogfighters. Because the wounds in his mouth were still open, and subject to infection, Hector was taken to veterinarian Marcella Bonner, of Swan Park Animal Hospital.

She tried to repair his gums, but the holes were too big. Hector probably needs a specialist, and even then — once the holes in his gums are healed — isn’t likely to be gnawing any bones.

Hector was returned to BARCS, but, because of his medical problems and his less than stellar appearance, he was an unlikely candidate for adoption — the only alternative to which is to end up on the PTS (put to sleep) list.

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