After the events of Sept. 11, 2001, it was Cheryl Krause-Parello’s, Ph.D., pet dog, Samantha, who changed the course of her entire career, and ultimately led to the formation of Canines Providing Assistance to Wounded Warriors (C-PAWW), a health research initiative for veterans that continues to support and improve lives today.
Krause-Parello is the Sharon Phillips Raddock distinguished professor of holistic health in the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing, director of C-PAWW, and a faculty fellow with the Institute for Human Health and Disease Intervention (I-Health). Her research investigates the relationship between human-animal interaction and stress biomarkers in vulnerable populations, including military veterans and their families.
Most recently, she explores how the coronavirus has impacted veterans who suffer from chronic pain, which is an issue largely misunderstood, she said. Social distancing and isolation due to the coronavirus pandemic may increase the susceptibility to social and chronic pain, she said. Along with a team of collaborators, the new project gives veterans a platform to voice their chronic pain concerns and is shedding light on how the interactions with dogs can improve social and chronic pain management.
“I am super excited about this new community engagement project,” Krause-Parello said. “Seeing the work of C-PAWW and the relationships that we have built with veterans and their families is very rewarding.”
Before she was an advocate for wounded service members, Krause-Parello was a doctoral student studying nursing research at Rutgers University in New Jersey. That is until the events at the World Trade Center changed the world — and hers. Krause-Parello’s husband, a marine veteran and a first responder, who was assigned to the rescue and recovery team, spent countless hours in the middle of the trauma working alongside other first responders including the highly trained rescue dogs.
When he would come home from the rescue and recovery effort at ground zero, their family dachshund Samantha, quietly sat next to him, giving him a kind of comfort and peace he did not realize he needed, Krause-Parello said. “Every time he would pet her, I could see he was melting his stress away from the trauma he’d witnessed that day,” she added.
If her husband who had the training to handle traumatic events could be calmed by her dog, then potentially other veterans could benefit from this human-animal interaction, she said.
It was this scenario that catapulted her decision to focus her nursing research on the human and animal bond. Part of her dissertation examined pet attachment as a form of social support for older adults in the community. Eventually, it blossomed into the C-PAWW initiative, which uses dogs to aid military veterans and active members of the armed forces who struggle with mental health challenges such as post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal ideation.
Krause-Parello started C-PAWW at the University of Colorado in the College of Nursing in 2013. When her community engagement project Veterans' Action League gave her the chance to collaborate with FAU, she connected with a friend at the university who encouraged her to apply for a faculty position.
“I have always wanted to continue my work at FAU,” Krause-Parello said. “When I visited, I fell in love with the university, the research opportunities and the caring environment.”
Now, she said she has plans to propose further research to ensure military veterans and their families receive the health and support they need.
“FAU, the I-Health Institute and the community has embraced C-PAWW and the work we do,” Krause-Parello said. “The C-PAWW team has seen much success in part because of the university resources that are available to us.” ◆