Mar 6, 2013 10:16 AM by Ryan Haarer

Tucson family trains dogs to help veterans cope with PTSD

TUCSON- We now know that more people in the U.S. military die by suicide than by combat. It's a harsh reality in the country especially with so many troops returning from war in the Middle East.

One family in Tucson is doing their part to help veterans cope with post traumatic stress disorder free of charge. They call it Operation Wolfhound. It's a service that trains Borzois to work with veterans to relieve them of some PTSD symptoms.

"A lot of veterans have problems with being insecure or being stressed in public. Having a very big dog that has a presence really helps them," said, Rhiannon Miller who trains the dogs.

They've placed over 65 trained borzois with PTSD veterans all over the country. The dogs provide the veteran with a sense of security by creating a barrier between strangers. The dogs constantly look behind the veteran for potential threats and even know how to find trigger points in veteran's muscles to relieve stress.

"Guys who are generally really quiet when we meet them, they'll have this big smile on their face and they'll go down and greet the dog. You can just see the change it's making already," said Rhiannon.

Rhiannon's mother Alicia has PTSD and helps Rhiannon train the dogs. She says a dog provides a medicine that just can't be written by a doctor.

"Petting a dog for five minutes will start an oxytocin flood in your brain. Oxytocin is the hormone of love. It is also an agonist to cortisol which is the stress hormone. It decreases feelings of distrust and it actually makes it harder to recall bad memories."

Operation Wolfhound does this for our veterans free of charge and there is an increasing demand for their Borzois.

Here is how you can help. The Southern Arizona Federal Credit Union has a donation account under Operation Wolfhound. You can walk into any branch and make a donation.


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