NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

October 1, 2013

'You feel isolated and alone'

Veteran connects service dogs to injured soldiers

(Continued)

Luckily for him, Jarvis discovered Operation Delta Dog, a nonprofit organization that partners homeless dogs trained to be working service animals with vets who are in need of a little help from a canine friend. The dogs offer a “protective buffer” when a vet is out in social situations that helps the person better acclimate to crowds, promotes a sense of calm and eases panic attacks. The pooches are trained to be alert to and provide comfort during night terrors, help ease the symptoms of stress and depression, and offer stability for a veteran who has trouble with balance, according to the group’s website.

Local veterans can participate in the training process without leaving their jobs or families and the dogs are given a new lease on a life “filled with purpose and affection.” The animals are considered working service dogs, meaning that under federal law they can go with the vet into public spaces that pets are not allowed.

Although Mocha has only lived with him for a few short weeks and the two have many months of cooperative training ahead of them before he can fully operate as a service dog, Jarvis said he is amazed what a difference having Mocha around has made already. It’s kept his mind from drifting down those old, depressing valleys. Instead, now he more often seeks a positive focus.

“It’s different when you have someone who depends on you,” explained the young vet, who is now using his own post-war challenges as a springboard to help other local service men and women.

Too many vets he knows are “falling through the wayside and are struggling,” said Jarvis. Unlike after the Vietnam War, most communities are good about welcoming home their war heroes. Yet, still, in a few months time “you’re on your own” to cope with what are sometimes severely disabling mental health issues, Jarvis said.

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