Thursday, April 14, 2016
Reporting for Duty: True Stories of Wounded Veterans and Their Service Dogs by Tracy Libby
In Reporting for Duty: True Stories of Wounded Veterans and Their Service Dogs, author Tracy Libby profiles the lives of injured veterans and how their service dogs have helped them overcome enormous struggles after returning from combat.
Some injuries are physical, such as in the case of a Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and sustained trauma from an improvised explosive device (IED) blast. He now has severe nerve damage in his back and legs. Service dogs can be trained to open and close doors, assist with laundry and other household tasks, and even help brace the soldier while walking up and down stairs.
Many other injuries are psychological, most notably in the case of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is marked by symptoms such as nightmares, panic attacks, hypervigilance, and sensitivity to everyday noises that can trigger flashbacks of gunfire or bomb blasts. For people with PTSD, service dogs can help calm them in the midst of a nightmare. The dog is trained to wake them up gently, so that the person can refocus emotionally and calm down physically. In addition, panic attacks are often caused by being in crowded areas. The service dog is trained to "block," or stand between the person and the crowd, in order to prevent strangers from approaching when the person is distressed.
Numerous service dog organizations exist, and some participate in prison training programs where non-violent inmates train puppies to learn basic commands such as sit, stay, and come. Inmates are carefully vetted prior to being allowed to handle the service dogs in training. The puppies train with inmates during the week, then live with a foster family during the weekend for socialization.
Some organizations use rescued dogs from shelters, while many others breed their animals for the specific purpose of becoming service dogs. Given all the training and time invested, service dogs are not always affordable. For example, the cost to breed, train, and raise a guide dog can be as high as $50,000. While some organizations charge for the animal, many non-profit groups such as Veterans Moving Forward provide the dog at no cost.
Each veteran who shares his or her story tells about how they felt lost prior to receiving their service dog. Some people were depressed and even suicidal. Their service dog gives them back a sense of freedom and independence for everyday life. The stories in Reporting for Duty are heartbreaking at times, but ultimately are stories about hope.
Search the VBPL catalog for Reporting for Duty: True Stories of Wounded Veterans and Their Service Dogs. If you enjoy this book, you might also like Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him by Luis Carlos Montalvan and Soldier Dogs: The Untold Story of America’s Canine Heroes by Maria Goodavage.