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Tag: ptsd

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)

Woman gets very crabby about service dog in Delaware restaurant

A customer who went ballistic over the presence of a veteran’s service dog in a Delaware seafood restaurant has defended her tirade, saying she was the victim of racial slurs.

Ciara Miller, the woman seen yelling in the now viral video, says that before the camera was turned on during the confrontation at Kathy’s Crab House in Delaware City, racial epithets were directed at her by “six or seven people.”

And she told FOX 29 that she stands firm in her belief that her dining experience should not have been spoiled by a dog.

“No, actually I don’t regret how vocal I was. I reacted based on the way they reacted to me,” Miller said.

The dog in question is JP, a Great Dane belonging to retired US Air National Guard Force Master Sgt. Bill Austin who suffers from PTSD. JP was wearing a vest indicating he was a service dog.

Miller objected that her family was seated in close proximity to the dog.

“The dog’s body was about the same height as the table. Basically, the butt was sitting in front of me at the table,” she can be heard to say in the video.

When someone tried to explain to her that JP was a service dog, belonging to a veteran who fought for the country, she responded, “Congratulations, congratulations. My husband’s dad did too … My husband’s dad fought for the fucking country …I don’t care, I don’t care … There should be a separate section for a f—ing animal.”

Bill+Austin+and+JP+Service+DogAustin, meanwhile, said no one said anything racial to Miller, that she started the argument, and that his dog behaved appropriately.

“I really am hoping something positive comes out of this,” Austin said. “This is about bad behavior.”

Since the video went viral, Miller says she has been harassed online.

“I am frightened to send my daughter to school with the level of verbal content is being said to and about me, my family and I based on these fake articles,” Miller said in an email to the Wilmington News Journal.

Kathy’s Crab House issued a statement apologizing for the “embarassing turn of events … It is unfortunate that some of the public are not familiar with federal regulations regarding service animals, which, in fact, do permit service animals into establishments such as grocery stores, public buildings and restaurants …”

The restaurant announced it will be sponsoring a fundraising effort for veterans and service animals.

(Photo: Bill Austin, with his wife and, in the foreground, JP, photo provided by Austin)

Mom misses son’s wedding after church refuses to admit her PTSD service dog

A church in Michigan refused to admit the mother of the groom to his wedding, saying its rules prohibited dogs inside the church — even service dogs.

Mary Douglas says her PTSD service dog, Stella, wasn’t allowed into the Word of Life Outreach Center in Quincy, causing her to miss the ceremony.

According to its “statement of faith,” as presented on its website, the non-denominational church believes in “One True God” and “Divine Healing” and “speaking in tongues.”

But apparently it does not believe too strongly in the Americans with Disabilities Act.

As a result, Douglas was left saddened and angry about missing her son’s wedding.

“I’ve sacrificed as any single mom, any mom really, does for their children. For that not to be reciprocated, that honor not to be due to a mom on her son’s wedding day, it’s heartbreaking,” Douglas said.

Douglas has had the service dog for almost two years, and says she feared having a “relapse,” if she entered the church without Stella, according to WWMT in western Michigan, which first reported the story.

“I’ve cried a lot. It was a very sleepless night last night,” Douglas said.

Douglas has filed a civil rights complaint with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights.

Pastor Robert Montgomery said the church tried to work with Douglas in the weeks leading up to the wedding, giving her “three options” to attend.

He didn’t specify what those options were, and neither did the news report.

It also didn’t address why the son and his bride-to-be held the wedding at the Word of Life Outreach Center, given in all likelihood they — or at least he — should have learned at some point that his mother would have difficulty attending.

Montgomery says the church has a “no animal policy” and that the policy that includes service dogs.

“The difficulty we find in letting animals in, so people know, if you have people that have a fear of animals or an allergy to animals, it makes it very difficult,” he said.

No justice for Camboui, the PTSD dog slain on camera by two Fort Bragg soldiers

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One of two Fort Bragg soldiers who tied a dog to a tree, shot it 10 times, and took photos and video of the killing had the animal cruelty charges against him dismissed this week.

Instead, in North Carolina’s Harnett County District Court, Jarren Heng was found guilty only of having a gun on educational property and conspiracy to commit cruelty to animals.

Heng was sentenced to between 6 and 17 months in prison, but the sentence was suspended. He will be on supervised probation for 12 months.

He also was ordered to pay a $100 fine and $450 in court costs, undergo psychiatric counseling and (as if the sentence weren’t already asinine enough) perform community service at an animal shelter.

Heng and Marinna Rollins, 23, an Army veteran, were charged in late April with tying an emotional support dog to a tree and shooting it to death.

The dog, named Camboui, served as Rollins’ PTSD dog, though he belonged to her estranged husband, Matt Dyer.

rollinsPhotos and videos of Heng and Rollins shooting the dog ended up on Facebook, showing them giggling, drinking Coca-Colas and making jokes as they executed the dog.

Rollins killed herself on May 7, after her arrest.

Rollins had joined the Army in February of 2014 and served as a multimedia illustrator before medically retiring from the Army in January of 2017. Heng had been part of a unit that serves the Army Special Operations Command.

In April, Rollins began posting on Facebook, saying she was attempting to find Camboui a new home. She told a friend that caring for him was too expensive. On April 17, she posted that she had a great last day with Camboui and that he was going to a new home.

“Sad he has to go, but he will be much happier where he is heading off to,” Rollins wrote on Facebook.

But where Camboui was actually taken was also revealed on Facebook — bizarrely enough in photos and videos taken by Heng and Rollins and posted on Facebook.

Heng and Rollins took Camboui to a wooded area. Both wore their Army camouflage pants and boots. Heng is pictured shirtless and Rollins wore a pink polka-dotted bra.

hengRollins shot Cam in the head, then fired several more shots into his body before Heng asked for a turn and handed her the camera. “Let me hit him once,” Heng said, according to court documents. They took photographs of the execution and at least three videos.

The case was investigated by the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office, which found the videos, photos and text messages between the two discussing the shooting.

But it was later transferred to Harnett County when it was learned that the shooting took place there, on some wooded property owned by Western Harnett High School.

There, prosecutors didn’t see Heng as the primary culprit, and didn’t pursue the most serious charges against him.

In a statement after the sentencing Harnett County Assistant District Attorney Edward Page said, “The evidence in the case tended to show that Marinna Rollins, the dog’s owner who has committed suicide, was the instigator of these despicable acts. Mr. Heng was certainly an active participant, but the shots he fired were after the dog had been shot 5 times by Ms. Rollins. A jury likely would have believed that the dog was already deceased by the time Mr. Heng fired the rifle.

“Additionally complicating matters is that Ms. Rollins had apparently told Mr. Heng that the dog was going to have to be euthanized anyway due to illness, which goes to his state of mind,” Page said.

“Ms. Rollins might have been the primary target of the prosecution in these matters, but she has paid the ultimate price,” he added.

Page said a charge of discharging a firearm on educational property was dismissed because it was not clear that either defendant knew the woods where they shot the dog were within the property boundaries of the school.

Chief District Court Judge Jacqueline Lee presided over the case and came up with the provision that Heng perform community service at an animal shelter as part of his punishment — an idea that many who have followed the case see as a major mistake, judging from comments left on the Justice for Cam Facebook page.

Even members of Rollins’ family were upset with Heng’s sentencing.

“It is so unfortunate that true justice was not served, for Cam,” Rollins’ sister, Ariana Rollins told the Fayetteville Observer. “He has to pay a hundred-dollar fine, for taking a life of an innocent animal. I hope he has to live everyday knowing what he did, and how many people his actions affected.”

The newspaper quoted Rollins’ estranged husband, Matt Dyer, as saying, “I am so mad. Watching that video, how could you not think he’s going to do terrible things to humans? He’s a sick person.”

Animal rights activist Donna Lawrence, one of about eight observers at Heng’s court appearance, said, “I’m in shock. It’s ridiculous … Who would want him working in a shelter?”

Prosecutor Page insisted the sentence was a fair one.

“Mr. Heng is now a convicted felon for the rest of his life, he received about as severe a punishment as he could get … and we expect the felony conviction will end his military career,” he said. “We appreciate the public’s interest in this case, and believe the outcome in the case was just.”

(Photos from the Justice for Cam Facebook page)

Veteran who videotaped killing of her support dog found dead in suspected suicide

rollins2The North Carolina veteran who videotaped herself and her boyfriend killing her emotional support dog has been found dead of suspected suicide.

Fayetteville Police Department Lt. Todd Joyce said Marinna Rollins was found dead in her apartment Sunday.

Her death is being investigated as a suicide, the Fayetteville Observer reports.

Rollins was 23.

Rollins and her 25-year-old boyfriend, Jarren Heng, were charged last month with cruelty to animals after investigators say they tied the pit bull mix to a tree and shot it multiple times with a rifle, laughing while they videotaped it.

They later posted the video on Facebook.

Rollins was scheduled to appear in court on the charges next week.

Court documents show Rollins received a medical retirement from the Army in January, and family and friends says she struggled with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after a traumatic experience while serving in South Korea.

The slain dog had been adopted by from the Cumberland County Animal Shelter by Rollins’ estranged husband. When he was deployed to South Korea, he left the dog in Rollins’ care. She changed the dog’s name from Huey to Camboui and had him certified as an emotional service animal.

Rollins and her boyfriend, Jarren Heng, 25, who is an Army special operations soldier, were charged with animal cruelty and conspiracy in April after the video surfaced on Facebook.

The dog’s body was found in a wooded area in Hartnett County.

Rollins was out on bail of $25,000. Heng remains out on bail in the same amount and has a May 16 court date.

Friends who had been unable to reach Rollins found her dead in her apartment.

Other than calling it a suspected suicide, authorities wouldn’t comment on the cause of death.

A horrible dog story you may want to avoid

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If you’re the type of person who shields yourself from accounts of dogs being treated with extreme cruelty, go away right now and come back tomorrow.

If you’re the type of person whose blood literally boils when you read about animal abuse — and you’d prefer your blood not to boil — go away right now.

Because what’s now clear happened last week to a veteran’s PTSD dog in North Carolina, at the hands of that veteran, isn’t easily stomached — even if we spare you the videos posted on Facebook.

Horrendous as it is, we are sharing it here — in honor of that dog’s memory, in the interest of justice for that dog, and because sometimes, futile as the effort might be, it’s important to at least try to understand the un-understandable.

An ex-soldier who told Facebook friends she had found a new home for her PTSD dog, Cam, actually took the dog into the woods around Fayetteville, where she and her boyfriend shot him multiple times, execution style.

They made a video of it, complete with giggles, which can now be found on Facebook.

“They can be heard on the tape laughing and giggling as the dog was being killed,” Cumberland County District Attorney Clark Reaves said at the couple’s first court appearance on Tuesday.

rollinshengMarinna Rollins, who is 23, and Jarren Heng, who is 25, have each been charged with cruelty to animals and conspiracy, according to the The Fayetteville Observer.

The dog had been adopted two years earlier by Rollins’ husband shortly after the couple separated. Rollins’ husband called the pit bull mix Huey, and described him as a great and loving dog who once chased burglars away from his home.

When Rollins’ husband learned he was being assigned to South Korea, he said Rollins cried and begged him to let her keep Huey, and he agreed.

rollinsWhile he was in South Korea, Marinna Rollins changed Huey’s name to Camboui, or Cam for short. She also had him certified as an emotional support animal for post-traumatic stress disorder — a diagnosis she had received.

Rollins had joined the Army in February of 2014 and served as a multimedia illustrator before medically retiring from the Army in January of 2017.

Heng had been part of a unit that serves the Army Special Operations Command.

It was just this month that Rollins began posting on Facebook in an attempt to find Cam a new home. She told a friend that caring for him was too expensive.

On April 17, she posted that she had a great last day with Cam and that he was going to a new home.

“Sad he has to go, but he will be much happier where he is heading off to,” Rollins wrote on Facebook.

Heng replied to Rollins’ Facebook post with a smiley-face emoji and the words, “He’s going to have such a great new life.”

Much of what happened after that was captured in photos and videos taken by Rollins and Heng.

hengCourt documents reveal that Heng and Rollins took Cam to an unknown wooded area. Both wore their Army camouflage pants and boots. Heng is pictured shirtless and Rollins wore a pink polka-dotted bra. They sipped Coca Colas and joked as they tied the dog to a tree.

Rollins shot Cam in the head, and then several more times, before Heng asked for a turn and handed her the camera.

“Let me hit him once,” Heng said.

According to court documents, they took photographs of the execution and at least three videos.

Rollins then dragged Cam’s dead body around before shoving him in a shallow grave.

The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office, in the course of the investigation, found the videos, photos and text messages between the two discussing the shooting.

Although it’s not clear how they got there, the photos and videos ended up on a Justice for Cam Facebook page, described as “a page set up in the memory of an Emotional Support Animal that was brutally murdered by his owner and her boyfriend.”

Bail was initially set at $5,000 for Heng and at $10,000 for Rollins, but prosecutors later had it increased to $25,000 each “due to aggravating factors and the cruel nature of the case.”

“We will work diligently to seek justice in this case,” Cumberland County District Attorney Billy West said. “What we do know about the case is disturbing.”

(Photos from the Justice for Cam Facebook page)

Knicks present veteran with service dog

Retired Army Sergeant Luciano Yulfo was invited to a New York Knicks game Wednesday to receive a personalized Knicks jersey as part of the team’s Hoops for Troops program.

Before you make any “36 years in the army and all I got was this stupid shirt” jokes, though, keep watching the video above, because at the end Yulfo gets what he has been waiting 18 months for — a service dog to help him cope with injuries he received in Afghanistan in 2014.

During a break between quarters at Madison Square Garden Wednesday night, the Knicks honored the retired sergeant first class — the latest in a series of veterans to be recognized during games in the days leading up to Veterans Day.

Yulfo was injured on duty in Afghanistan in 2014, and was stationed at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center before retiring this past April.

He’d been on a service dog waiting list for 18 months.

Then, the Knicks, Budweiser and Paws of War came through with Murphy, a golden retriever presented to him Wednesday, according to Fox Sports.

The Knicks have honored several military members during games as part of their Hoops for Troops program. In addition to the on-court recognition, honorees get to attend a practice to meet players.

Paws of War trains and places rescued dogs to serve and provide independence to our United States military veterans who suffer the emotional effects of war.