Dogs Bring Healing To Wounded Service Persons

Friday, July 31st 2009, 4:20 pm
By: News On 6

By Craig Day, The News On 6

UNDATED -- The United States Senate passed a measure creating a pilot program that pairs service dogs with injured military men and women. Supporters say it not only could help soldiers facing physical injuries, but also those with post traumatic stress disorder and depression.

One Green Country soldier knows firsthand the comfort a pet can bring during a difficult recovery.

In 2007, 11 months into his deployment, Shane Vincent was injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq.

"There was an IED in a culvert - 500 pounds of HE.  HE is high explosive," said Shane Vincent, injured soldier.

Vincent's injuries meant nearly eight months in the hospital and a long and difficult recovery. But that recovery has been made better by a miniature Yorkie named Bella. Vincent says the little dog has been a big blessing.

"Yes she has, big blessing," he said.  "Pushes you everyday to do more stuff."

Bella provides companionship and has lifted the injured soldier's spirits.

"It's good for them to have some kind of routine, and these dogs give them that routine that they really need," said Sharon Vincent, Shane's wife.

"Everything I've had problems with, sleeping, walking - she's been there," said injured soldier Shane Vincent.

The U.S. Senate passed a measure that will create a pilot program that provides service dogs for veterans with physical or mental wounds. It will start with 200 dogs.  Half will be for veterans suffering from mental health disabilities like post traumatic stress disorder, the other half for veterans with physical injuries.

"To me that's a really big deal for these guys to get home, to have something to do," Sharon Vincent said.

The $5 million pilot program will last for three years while researchers study its benefits.

Vincent says having a Bella has worked wonders during his recovery, and having specially trained service dogs can make even more of a difference for other soldiers injured on the battlefield.

"When I started to walk and everything, I would take her on walks, and start taking her for walks," Vincent said. "And then I think you build a relationship with your dog, definitely."

Shane Vincent said the little dog has improved his mindset.

The measure should get through the House and be signed into law with no problems. The Veterans' Administration will pay for the first 50 dogs of the program and then provide funds to match contributions made to non-profit service dog organizations.