PTSD and Canine Companions - VA Butler Healthcare
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VA Butler Healthcare


PTSD and Canine Companions

Army Veteran Anthony Kennedy takes his service dog Flocrm with him everywhere he goes, primarily to help him with PTSD.

Army Veteran Anthony Kennedy takes his service dog Flocrm with him everywhere he goes, primarily to help him with PTSD.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Sleep. It leaves us feeling refreshed like nothing else. It can be occasionally elusive, almost always comforting, and absolutely crucial to our health. Even though we spend a third of our lives asleep, we hardly give it a moment’s notice...until we can't sleep.

Veterans who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have difficulty sleeping because they are terrorized nightly by horrific dreams. These dreams can be frightening, intrusive, and even dangerous. A Veteran may try to hurt themselves or their spouse, later waking up gasping for air or screaming.

When Anthony Kennedy came home from his first tour in Iraq, he had a nightmare incident that was both intrusive and physical. “I knew guys were coming home with issues, but in 2005 no one was really talking about PTSD like they are now. But, I knew I was having issues and something had to be done,” he said. That’s when Anthony first came to VA Butler Healthcare.

Captain Anthony Kennedy served two tours of duty in Iraq as a Platoon Leader and a Night Battle Captain as an officer in the United States Army. After enlisting in the U.S. Navy Reserve in 1992, Anthony served as a Fireman on both the USS Antrim and USS Moinester. He enlisted in the Oregon Army National Guard three years later and earned his commission through Officer Candidate School in 2004. After becoming an officer, Kennedy held various jobs including platoon leader, state equipment management officer, and chemical officer. Anthony earned many awards throughout his military career including a Bronze Star for service, the Army Meritorious Service Medal for one of his tours in Iraq, and two Army Commendation Medals.

After Anthony’s second tour in Iraq, things really started to fall apart. For one thing, he began self-medicating with alcohol. Although not actually driving, he was sitting in his vehicle one day and was almost charged with a DUI. For him, this was the turning point. “It changed me, I made the decision to stop,” Anthony said.

Anthony has undergone a range of treatment for PTSD (and continues to do so), including one-on-one counseling, medication, and group therapy. “With group therapy, I’m not the only guy there. I’m not isolated anymore,” Anthony said. “My treatment team never lets me go. You can tell the true character of the individuals working with you; I see a bunch of caring people.”

In December 2011, Anthony received a service dog from America’s VetDogs® – The Veteran's K-9 Corps®, a not-for-profit organization founded by the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind that serves the needs of disabled Veterans and active duty personnel. The lab and golden retriever mix named Flocrm primarily helps him with PTSD. For example, she helps with anxiety, interactions, and helps him with nightmare interruption by licking his face to wake him up. “I take her everywhere with me,” Anthony said.  “I have anxiety issues, so she helps me interact with people better.”

When a Veteran first comes to VA Butler’s Center for Behavioral Health, they are evaluated. If diagnosed with PTSD, they are referred to the PTSD Treatment Team, led by Dr. Mary Jane Niebauer. “Often times the first step is assigning what we call a case manager, someone to meet with the Veteran and help them decide what the most appropriate form of treatment is at the time.”

VA Butler offers a range of treatment including a PTSD Basic Training Class, individual therapy, group therapy, a combination of both, etc. To learn more about PTSD and treatment options or to request to be seen by VA Butler’s Center for Behavioral Health, call 800-362-8262, ext. 5039.


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