Every day, about 20 military veterans in the United States die by suicide. A new program is bringing dogs and veterans together to save lives.
Marine Veteran Lyndon Villone is never without his service dog, ice, by his side.
Lyndon Villone, Founder, Heel the Heroes said, “Ice is a Siberian Huskey and he just turned 8 in July.”
Lyndon suffered from PTSD after returning from Iraq and learning he lost 6 fellow soldiers to suicide.
“It was after that that I brought the shotgun back to my parent’s house and went to sleep with him underneath the picnic table,” said Villone.
Cheryl Krause-Parello, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, Director, C-P.A.W.W., Professor, Florida Atlantic University said, “Unfortunately, the statistics show that 20 veterans a day are taking their own life but that’s underreported.”
Doctor Krause-Parello first witnessed the bond between Lyndon and Ice.
“It was like watching him pet his trauma away,” said Doctor Krause-Parello.
She created C-P.A.W.W. (C-PAW), canines providing assistance to wounded warriors, to study the connection between them.
“They can help them sleep better, get off medications that maybe they were on for insomnia, anxiety,” said Doctor Krause-Parello.
Her team uses saliva samples from veterans to measure stress levels.
“People are really looking at this now as an alternative non-pharmacological intervention,” said Doctor Krause Parello.
Austin Capers, U.S. Army Combat Veteran said, “I spent 15 months in Iraq.”
Combat Veteran Austin Capers was taking anti-depressants before meeting his boxer, Rita.
Austin Capers said, “I think had I not had Rita in my life I would still be on those today.”
Cheryl says veterans returning to civilian life need a purpose these pets can provide. But training a service dog can cost up to 30 thousand dollars.
Doctor Krause-Parello said, “Service dogs for veterans with PTSD or invisible wounds, it’s not reimbursable.”
She’s hoping her research will change that.
Lyndon Villone said, “I probably would have made a very poor decision and I probably would have taken my life.”
Cheryl’s work through C-P.A.W.W. is funded by donations and grants.
Lyndon started his own non-profit called heel the heroes, which helps veterans reconnect to society and their families through coping mechanisms and training their own pets for emotional support.