There are many ways to treat people who have experienced traumatic events, one of which is by treating casualties by animals, especially through service dogs specially trained to assist in this way.
In order to understand the form of assistance and what lies behind it, we spoke with Dr. Dganit Ben-Gev of the Animal Welfare Division of the Veterinary Services of the Ministry of Agriculture, who also spoke about the dozens of abductees recently returned to Israel after being held captive by Hamas for about a month and a half.
Unconditional Love (Illustrative), Photo: Getty Images
"The reunion of the freedmen with their dogs has great significance," she told Israel Hayom. "The dog is like a family member, and it's a kind of return to the routine they had before they were kidnapped. The dog is a loving animal and not judgmental at all, so if someone wakes up crying and screams at night or if they start wetting their bed, the dog will continue to love and support them unreservedly – and this is a powerful and impactful support. That love and support is something with a lot of power. By the way, if you have a dog, you should consult a dog training specialist or veterinarian because they may also be traumatized by the sirens and explosions and everything they experience during these difficult events."
What are the abilities of such dogs?
"Just petting a dog calms a person and lowers his blood pressure. A trained dog can hear a noise that disturbs the owner, for example if it scares him, long before he reaches him – so he approaches him, puts his head on his feet and calms him down. Such a dog can also approach its owner who wakes up screaming at night, lick him or sleep next to him, thus supporting him."
A Labrador dog on a walk (illustration), photo: Getty Images
Dr. Ben Dov added: "Beyond these actions, a service dog can greatly assist a fighter who is unable to be behind him. For example, when shell-shocked people have to take money out of an ATM, it can be very difficult for him to have other people behind him. When the dog sits behind him, and it is usually a large Labrador, he separates the warrior from the rest of the people, and also touches him and gives him a lot of confidence. There are fighters who fall in terror in the street. In such a situation, the dog is trained to move other people away from the fighter and then slowly encourages him to get to his feet, for example by licking the ear, supporting him with the nose or by pushing with the leg. This repetitive activity calms the person, who calms down – and the dog stops only after telling him to finish. When you train it individually, there are a lot of actions that can be done with the dog, so you train it according to the person who needs it and to whom it will be transferred."
Dr. Dganit Ben-Gav // Photo: Ministry of Agriculture Spokesperson's Office
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