Retired Army Capt. Adrian Veseth-Nelson and Thor, who he credits with saving his life while coping with severe stress. (Photo by Diana Veseth-Nelson)
“I looked at Thor who was to be euthanized that day at the kill shelter. He was quiet and calm and looked like he didn’t belong with the other, more engaged dogs, and I thought, ‘I feel the same way.’”
That day, retired Army Capt. Adrian Veseth-Nelson not only saved Thor’s life, but claims Thor saved his. I recently heard Veseth-Nelson talk about the dog during a Military Pathways® webinar “Canine Companions and Your Emotional Health.” Although he didn’t know it when he met Thor, Veseth-Nelson’s anger, sleeplessness and restless mind were symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He credits his companion dog with forcing him to engage in life while distracting him from his darker inclinations.
Veseth-Nelson’s experience with Thor is being echoed by other vets with PTSD who credit a dog for their improved condition. Now he and his wife, Diana, believe they’re helping save veterans’ lives with Battle Buddies, their mentoring and canine placement program for veterans with PTSD.
Battle Buddies joins a growing movement of canine-assisted therapy programs in the country. Paws for Purple Hearts mimics the military’s peer support tradition by teaching veterans with PTSD how to train service dogs for other veterans with physical and psychological health concerns. In the process, trainers must face their own issues, such as hyper-vigilance and emotional numbness, to effectively train the animals. Many recovering service members at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center participate in the program as part of an internship.