Therapy dog helps soldiers cope with stress Former Sgt. 1st Class Van Woodruff is comforted by Lexy, a German Shepherd that is changing the lives of U.S. Army soldiers being treated for physical and psychological injuries
Therapy dog helps soldiers cope with stress
Lexile

After three deployments to Iraq and three to Afghanistan, Staff Sgt. Dennis Swols is prone to bouts of anger. He is unable to really talk about his time on the battlefield.

But as Swols sits in a clinic at Fort Bragg, his hand drops to the furry head beside him. His mood brightens. Settled at his feet, Lexy, a 5-year-old German shepherd, gives Swols a few moments of distraction.

It's her job. And, according to Swols, she's good at it.

"I have a hard time talking to people about my deployments and everything," says Swols, who took part in the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and the march into Baghdad in 2003. Now he's been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress.

"I just pet Lexy. Or I'm just sitting here and we won't talk about deployments, we'll just (talk) about the dogMy day is better every time I come in."

For psychiatrist Christine Rumayor, Lexy is a partner and a living, breathing medical tool. The dog can calm a patient and make a therapy appointment a little more enjoyable.

Animal therapy is used in only a few other Army installations, including Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. A small number of dogs like Lexy are being used almost as co-therapists. Others routinely work as service animals and are often used for animal-assisted therapy. That includes visits to patients in the hospitals.

Lexy went through about 2 1/2 years of training before she was able to pin on her rank she's a lieutenant colonel and become certified as Fort Bragg's only therapy dog.

The Army is struggling to address stress disorders and mental health problems brought on by more than a decade of war. One of the biggest hurdles is getting soldiers to seek treatment. Lexy, it turns out, is particularly good at that.

Rumayor, who wrote the Fort Bragg policy that allows her to use Lexy in her practice, said there was resistance at first.

"You don't want everybody to think they can just bring their dog to work," she said.

Walking around the base, she uses Lexy to attract soldiers, then draws them into conversation.

"Stigma is one of the huge things the military is trying super hard to overcome, and Lexy is probably the biggest asset I have in overcoming that stigma," Rumayor said. "There's nothing better than coming to an appointment where you get to have a warm fuzzy thing that you get to pet all the time.

"People don't want to come in the door. When they see her coming in, it makes them want to come in the door."

Critical thinking challenge: How does Lexy help soldiers get help?

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COMMENTS (130)
  • djs44
    5/09/2014 - 08:42 a.m.

    Lexy helps soldiers get help in therapy by keeping them company and brightening up the soldiers day. This is how Lexy helps soldiers in war.

  • anag7916
    5/09/2014 - 09:21 a.m.

    i think thats cute because a dog helps a soilder take out his stress. i guess the dog really is special to the soilder.

  • brady.q-
    5/09/2014 - 09:35 a.m.

    The story is all about a german shepherd that helps soldiers with stress. Lexy helps to calm soldiers. They soldiers pet Lexy to calm them down.This will help soldiers.

  • trentong99
    5/09/2014 - 09:53 a.m.

    i think that is cool that a dog helps a soldier relieve his stress and that is nice of the dog and that dog must be trained to be really really smart

  • Christian Otero
    5/09/2014 - 10:12 a.m.

    That is good that therapy dogs help soldiers. That can help them cool down after army service in Iraq. Dogs are like man's best friends. Dogs like Lexy can help soldiers with mental problems. Dogs are really helpful.

  • AndresMontes
    5/09/2014 - 10:18 a.m.

    This article is about a story of a therapy dog named Lexy who is 5 years old and is helping a soldier who is really depressed after being deployed. Thankfully the dog is helping the soldier feel better.

  • lizzy0912
    5/09/2014 - 10:35 a.m.

    Lexy helps the solders thats really cool to know that a dog can help a person can help someone with stress. Its good to know that they would help people.

  • ladyangel
    5/09/2014 - 10:55 a.m.

    After three deployments to Iraq and three to Afghanistan, Staff Sgt. Dennis Swols is prone to bouts of anger. He is unable to really talk about his time on the battlefield.
    But as Swols sits in a clinic at Fort Bragg, his hand drops to the furry head beside him. His mood brightens. Settled at his feet, Lexy, a 5-year-old German shepherd, gives Swols a few moments of distraction.

    It's her job. And, according to Swols, she's good at it.

  • aniyah2002
    5/09/2014 - 11:22 a.m.

    It helps the soldiers get calm, by letting them pet and do tricks with the dog. When a do is pet it calms both down the the soldier, and the dog.When the soldier is mad or frustrated the dob lets he or she pet or play with them or something.

  • Tomas01
    5/09/2014 - 11:30 a.m.

    i think that Lexy helps the solders by being calm and listening so that the solders can say what they feel so that they are less traumatized and they can probably get more help like that so they don't feel so lost and they can express them selves.

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