It was probably inevitable. Just as human soldiers have been traumatized by the horrors of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, now it seems as if military dogs in combat zones suffer emotionally as well.
Consider the case of Gina. According to the AP, she “was a playful 2-year-old German shepherd when she went to Iraq as a highly trained bomb-sniffing dog with the military, conducting door-to-door searches and witnessing all sorts of noisy explosions.” The five months she served in Iraq changed her, and she “returned home to Colorado cowering and fearful.” Gina was scared to enter buildings, and once inside a building she would hide under furniture or in a corner, avoiding human contact. In June 2009, a military veterinarian diagnosed her as having post-traumatic stress disorder.
Since then, Gina has been receiving therapy and treatment for her condition, and is apparently doing much better. In July of this year, she was re-certified as a war dog and assigned to domestic duty.
Gina is but one story. Who knows how many other dogs serving in our military, helping to fight our wars, return broken and traumatized? Certainly, plenty of human veterans have. According to the Christian Science Monitor, “more than 150,000 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have been officially diagnosed with PTSD.” The number is no doubt much higher, with the RAND Corporation estimating the figure to be around 300,000, or 20 percent of all veterans of those conflicts.
Oddly, some veterinarians resist diagnosing dogs with PTSD, “thinking it demeans servicemen and women.” Frankly, that is an idiotic and cruel attitude. It reminds me of the arguments used by some vivisectionists to convince us that we shouldn’t be concerned with animal suffering, since people pain and animal pain are somehow different. In the meantime, dogs remain traumatized when they could be getting the help that they need.
The one positive in the story of Gina is that she did receive support and treatment. In the past, America has treated its military dogs pretty badly. In Gina’s case, at least, we’ve done a bit better.
I hope all the dogs (and all the people) who return from Iraq and Afghanistan receive the help they need. Gina’s story just furthers shows that war is hell for humans and animals alike.
Photo Credit: Public Domain