The Military Advanced Training Center, a department at Walter Reed that cares for severely disabled veterans, is having much success utilizing therapy dogs. The hospital also refers qualified veterans to organizations like Canine Companions for Independence Veterans Program, America’s VetDogs and Neads Canines for Combat Veterans.
Master Sgt. Mark Eugene Gwathmey, 38, has been a marine since he was 19. When Sergeant Gwathmey returned home from Iraq in 2005, he began to show symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Unexplained seizures followed. At Walter Reed Army Medical Center he was paired with Larry, an English Labrador and golden retriever mix. The bond between them was instant. Larry, helps him cope with stress and maintain stability while walking, and has also demonstrated the potentially life-saving ability to alert Sergeant Gwathmey to a seizure before it happens. His wife, Carolyn, said: "I can't imagine life without Larry. He helps me take care of my husband."
As a first lieutenant in the Army, Jeffrey Adams was responsible for 35 soldiers in Baghdad when he lost his leg in 2004 due to a bomb. Though a dog lover, Mr. Adams, now 29, was not sure he needed help. "You get military people that think, 'I'm an alpha male, alpha female, and I don't need a dog,' " he said. He eventually overcame his reluctance, and in February 2008 was teamed with Sharif, a yellow Labrador and golden retriever mix. Sharif is trained to respond to 40 commands, a skill that becomes crucial when Mr. Adams removes his prosthetic leg. The dog is so good at retrieving dropped objects and helping with balance that Mr. Adams's wife, Katie, jokes that Sharif has made him lazier. "But that's not it," Mr. Adams said. "He makes me safer."