Dog Bless You: Social media campaign pairs dogs with veterans
As the impact of social media grows, one group is trying to tie Facebook to helping war veterans.
For every 1,000 'likes' on Facebook, Dog Bless You is hoping to donate a service dog to a war veteran.
Created by explore.org, Dog Bless You is running a social media campaign which will run from Memorial Day to Independence Day, providing man's best friend to veterans suffering from disabilities, both physical and mental.
Charlie Annenberg Weingarten, the founder of Dog Bless You and explore.org, said in a press release, "Dogs are the guardian angels of the human soul, and few people need or deserve them more than those who have served our country. If we entrust dogs to help critical missions on the fields of war, we should entrust dogs to help take care of our men and women at home."
The organizations participating in the campaign to provide war veterans with companions include Pets to Vets, Soldier’s Best Friend, Puppies Behind Bars, Freedom Service Dogs, Paws for Purple Hearts, Paws and Stripes, Patriot PAWS, and ECAD.
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According to CNN, a Pentagon study in 2004 found that one in six veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression or anxiety and another study by the RAND Corp. in 2008 put the number at one in five.
CNN's mental health expert, Dr. Charles Raison, said that dogs help lower blood pressure and heart rates and reduce stress. They prove to be helpful companions to senior citizens and mental health patients.
Specialist Mike Ballard who was paired with Apollo after his return from Afghanistan said that when the PTSD symptoms kick in, "I can just sit there with him and pet him," according to Associated Press.
"It starts lowering my blood pressure and I get more focused simply petting his fur," he said.
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The Pentagon began a program this year which has wounded veterans training service dogs to help other military veterans, according to ABC News. The dogs are trained to help with routine tasks like picking up wallets, pushing automatic door buttons and turning on lights, in addition to aiding with PTSD.
"To be able to have someone who can be close to you and be a part of you as you go through some very tough times, as you rehabilitate, as you come back and try to come back into society and have the company of a dog -- that is really a true friend because they don't question what you are doing, they're just your friend through thick and thin," Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told ABC News. "Having that kind of relationship I think is just great for the veterans who serve this country."
Here is a video from explore.org called Freedom Service Dogs: