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Local Dogs Helping Veterans with PTSD

LEEDS, Mass. (WGGB) — Experts estimate up 20 percent of veterans coming home from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will develop post traumatic stress disorder at some point in their lives.

For veterans who fought in earlier wars like Vietnam, that percentage is even higher — which means the need for treatment is growing.

That’s where Bright Spot Therapy Dogs come in.

Since 2004, these pups have spent their days visiting patients in nursing homes, hospitals, even psychiatric facilitates — helping them heal, just by being themselves.

“It’s the very presence of the dog, the actual petting of the dog that has a very calming effect on people,” says Bright Spot founder Cynthia Hinckley.

Volunteer Matthew Owen has been bringing his dogs to the VA Hospital in Leeds for almost seven years. He was first inspired after hearing the stories of his father, a WWII veteran.

“He had post traumatic stress syndrome and became an alcoholic and one of the stories that he told me as a child that saved him, literally, was one night, coming home with a pint of whiskey and sitting with one of the farm dogs,” says Owen. “It was the only creature that he could share his real-life story with.”

Today, Owen is the proud owners of one of the best therapy dogs around. His German Shepherd Spyder also suffers from PTSD after he was abused as a puppy.

“The guys will say, ‘Hey Joe! Hey Frank! He’s on the same drugs I’m on!’ and then they rub him, they talk to him, and it’s just a wonderful connection,” says Owen.

“Research has actually proven that the simple act of petting a dog will lower blood pressure,” says Hinckley.

WWII Navy Veteran Sam Lococo loved today’s visit from three Bright Spot therapy dogs, but it’s hard not to pick a favorite.

“I think a German Shepherd would be my choice,” says Lococo. “They’re easy to train, and they’re loyal.”

From the looks of it, Lococo is not the only veteran who now looks forward to weekly therapy.

To learn more about Bright Spot Therapy Dogs, visit Bright-Spot.org

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