PORT JEFFERSON STATION, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — It was a special day for a military veteran on Long Island.
Daja Lacey, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, was to be united with a therapy dog named “Tank” — a rescued pit bull that has been specially-trained to help Lacey battle the condition.
The match was made possible by Paws of War, a program started by the Long Island-based organization Guardians of Rescue to help military veterans in need.
“PTSD is a real disorder that affects thousands of veterans, both active and inactive, across the country,” Lacey said in a statement. “We are very thankful to Guardians of Rescue for rescuing Tank and many others, and now Tank will help to rescue me.”
Robert Misseri, president of Guardians of Rescue, said therapy dogs are in high demand across the country.
“It’s growing rapidly. We’re getting calls from Alaska, California, the state of Washington, with veterans needing help,” Misseri told 1010 WINS.
It’s estimated that around 400,000 veterans currently suffer from PTSD and experts say animal therapy has proven to be beneficial in helping veterans overcome the condition.
“The number one service that these animals give to these veterans is comfort. They’re first companion dogs then a therapy dog,” Misseri said. “This is a great way for them to come off from most of their medications. These dogs give them unconditional love and they truly trust them and vice versa.”
Lacey’s mother, Sabrina, who is also a military veteran and suffers from PTSD, was paired with a Shitzu named “Joey.”
The dogs that Sabrina and Daja were paired with have been traumatized themselves. Tank was left at a Fort Bragg shelter by a deployed soldier, but now he will help Daja with her struggle against PTSD.
“I have flashbacks and moments I can’t get in touch with reality, and hopefully he can bring me back,” she said.
Sabrina said she faces a similar fight.
“I stay in one room, most veterans do, we isolate ourselves. When I have the dog I have to get up and get out of my house,” she told CBS 2′s Carolyn Gusoff.
Symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks, upsetting dreams, hopelessness and memory problems.
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