By Linda Holtz
The devastating symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) had become an all too familiar part of the life of Cheryl A. Krause-Parello, Ph.D. For her husband, a Marine veteran and possibly one of the estimated 300,000 veterans facing the ravages of the disorder, most days were a struggle as he took part in the rescue and recovery efforts at the site of the destroyed World Trade Center.
Krause-Parello tapped into her own human-animal interaction research to help her husband. Her background as a nurse scientist and anthrozoologist enabled her to see the significant healing impact her own pet dachshund had on her husband. This led her to create the “Canines Providing Assistance to Wounded Warriors” (C-P.A.W.W.) a health research initiative for military and veterans.
Krause-Parello recently re-located from the University of Colorado to take on a professorship in FAU’s Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing, and brought C-P.A.W.W. with her.
“Through C-P.A.W.W., my team and I are generating scientific evidence to advance the existing protocols for veterans who are diagnosed with PTSD,” she said. “Currently I have several research projects in progress. I would like to use MRI technology to study the effects of service animals on brain anatomy in veterans.”
The initiative will focus on research to develop new standards of treating and caring for wounded veterans, including those whose wounds aren’t physically visible. An alarmingly high number (some 7,300 men and women) of suicides occur annually in the veteran community. “One veterans life lost to suicide is one too many,” Krause-Parello said. “We seek to change that.”
C-P.A.W.W. will also continue to examine the motivating idea behind the initiative: how the unconditional bond animals form with humans promotes healing and recovery. In addition, the initiative aims to gain national momentum that will give it the leverage to promote public policy supporting the use of service dogs as a reimbursable medical expense for veterans suffering from PTSD.
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