PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

While a wide variety of events can trigger post-traumatic stress disorder, Patriot Rovers focuses solely on the service-related variety. As a new generation of veterans return to civilian life and seek out resources, Patriot Rovers is here to help.

If you are struggling and think a Patriot Rover might help, apply here.

 Facts & Support for Our Cause:

  • A recent,(Feb. 2013) more precise study of veteran suicides from 1999 to 2010 shows that the number is heartbreakingly higher: 22 deaths per day
  •  It’s frankly frustrating that with the level of effort that we’ve put out there, that we haven’t stemmed the [suicide] tide,” general George Casey, the Army’s top officer, told a House panel March 23, 2010
  •  Overall, the services reported 434 suicides by personnel on active duty, significantly more than the 381 suicides by active duty personnel reported in 2009. –
  • For the second year in a row [2009 & 2010], the U.S. military has lost more troops to suicide than it has to combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. –
  • While 468 active duty service members committed suicide, an estimated 6,580 veterans took their own lives in 2010 – Center for a New American Security (
  •  More than two million servicemen and women have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11, and almost a third of these soldiers have been deployed more than once.  In a recent study of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, up to 50 percent of respondents reported “some” to “extreme” difficulty in social functioning, productivity, and community involvement.
  • Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that the expected increase in suicides among soldiers is “an emergency issue.”  Existing rates are already alarmingly high.  Mullen attributes an anticipated rise in the coming months and years to the large number of troops coming back to their bases after facing years of multiple deployments.  With the U.S. draw down in Iraq, Army and Marine Corps units in particular are finally getting a break from back-to-back tours of duty that started in 2003. Suicide rates have gone up in every branch of the military since 2004.  There have been record highs in the Army, which has faced the most repeated deployments. (NY Magazine 09/30/2010)

The Need for Service Dogs for Veterans and Active Duty Military Personnel

  • According to the Department of Defense, as of July 2011 over 50,000 service men and women have been injured in the current conflicts since 2003.
  • These include such life-altering injuries as: blind; with amputated limbs; spinal cord injuries; traumatic brain injuries; or suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.
  • Heroes in need of guide and assistance dogs have vastly exceeded original projections
  • It costs between $10,000 and $60,000 to raise and train a guide, therapy or service dog, Patriot Rovers does this at a cost of $20,500 per dog/veteran team.
  • Patriot Rovers is answering the call to serve the men and women who have sacrificed so much for our country.

Symptoms of PTSD include
(to name a few):

  • Repeated “reliving” of the event, which disturbs day-to-day activity
  • Avoidance. Emotional “numbing,” or feeling as though you don’t care about anything
  • Difficulty concentrating, Exaggerated response to things that startle you
  • Inability to be in crowds, easily startled, episodes of rage
  • Anxiety, hallucinations, nightmares, paranoia
  • A sense of guilt about the event (including “survivor guilt”), and the symptoms typical of anxiety, stress, and tension.

Beyond the physical injuries that we all know dogs assist their owners to overcome, dogs can be trained to greatly mitigate all kinds of psychiatric disorders. says that according to the Army Surgeon General’s special assistant for mental health, Col. Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, M.D., the Army is using dogs “much more” to help soldiers recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The importance of using animals as part of a system of treatment services was emphasized at a 2010 NAMI Convention symposium on “Veterans and Military Mental Health,” focusing on the needs of returning soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as other veterans.

Until recently there has been no government assistance that would provide a trained service or guide dog for returning veterans diagnosed with a physical injury and there is very little available for veterans with psychiatric injury. In 2009, only 9 soldiers received funding for service dogs and in 2012 , VA cut any funding for psychiatric service dogs! Private donations are critically needed to make sure that every veteran in need of a service or guide dog, receives one.

The dogs are trained to perform such tasks as to jolt a soldier from a flashback, dial 911 on a phone and even sense a panic attack before it starts. And, perhaps most important, the veterans’ sense of responsibility, optimism and self-awareness is renewed by caring for the dogs.

Like all assistance dogs, a psychiatric service dog is individually trained to do work or perform tasks that mitigate their handler’s disability. Training may include providing environmental assessment (in such cases as paranoia or hallucinations), signaling behaviors (such as interrupting repetitive or injurious behaviors), reminding the handler to take medication, retrieving objects, guiding the handler from stressful situations, or acting as a brace if the handler becomes dizzy.


Dogs Trained Reaction

Distractibility, Anxiety, Intrusive imagery, Dissociation, Flashbacks Tactile Stimulation
Hallucinations Hallucination Discernment
Feelings of isolation Cuddle and Kiss
Hyper vigilance Alert to presence of other people
Fear / Startle response Environmental Assessment
Fear / Anxiety Turn on lights and safety check a room
Rumination Avoidance behaviors Staying with and focusing on handler
Nightmares Interrupt by Waking-up handler, Turn on lights for calming & reorienting, Turn off lights for resuming sleep
Feelings of being threatened Create safe personal space

Table courtesy: Psychiatric Service Dog Society

Listed below are examples of some of the many tasks Psychiatric Service Dogs can be trained to do for their handler.

  • Assist handler within their home.
  • Assist handler in places of public accommodation (e.g. grocery stores, shopping malls, public transportation, and etc.).
  • Remind their handler to take medication.
  • Wake handler for school or work.
  • Assist in coping with emotional overload by bringing handler into the “here and now.”
  • Provide a buffer or a shield for the handler in crowded areas by creating a physical boundary.
  • Extinguish flashbacks by bringing handler into the here and now.
  • Orient during panic/anxiety attack.
  • Stand behind handler to increase feelings of safety, reduce hyper-vigilance, and decrease the likelihood of the handler being startled by another person coming up behind them.
  • Search dwelling.

Many of the benefits to owning a Service Dog extend beyond having the dog’s assistance with certain tasks.  Such benefits are inherent in the human-canine relationship and often include:

  • Relief from feelings of isolation.
  • An increased sense of well-being.
  • Daily structure and healthy habits.
  • An increased sense of security.
  • An increased sense of self-efficacy.
  • An increased sense of self-esteem.
  • An increased sense of purpose.
  • Mood improvement, and increased optimism.
  • A secure and uncomplicated relationship.
  • A dependable and predictable love, affection and nonjudgmental companionship.
  • Motivation to exercise.
  • Encouragement for social interactions.
  • Reduction in debilitating symptoms.
  • Greater access to the world.
  • Around the clock support.