When we think of dogs serving in the military, the conjured images might be of the formidably enhanced heros that assisted the Navy SEAL team take out bin Laden--maybe not the estimated 5 percent of K9's who, like many soldiers, are also suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Today, The New York Times offers an introduction to PTSD in canines, writing that the concept arrived around 18 months ago and noting that their frightening daily task of sniffing out improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan and Iraq has taken a big toll on them too. Which is why many now need treatment:
Like humans with the analogous disorder, different dogs show different symptoms. Some become hyper-vigilant. Others avoid buildings or work areas that they had previously been comfortable in. Some undergo sharp changes in temperament, becoming unusually aggressive with their handlers, or clingy and timid. Most crucially, many stop doing the tasks they were trained to perform.
One of the more famous dogs diagnosed with PTSD, who seems to fit the above description, is named Gunner. He's a labrador who was the subject of two separate Wall Street Journal A-Hed profiles last year. The first in March 2010--around the time that The Times now says the concept of PTSD in dogs came "into vogue"--was about how the everyday stress of searching for improvised explosive devices buried in the ground in Afghanistan had made the dog "snap" and lose his nerve. The second article, a follow-up in October of the same year, followed Gunner as he adapted to his post-war lifestyle. For this lab, things seemed to end well. He was adopted by a couple, the Dunhams, who had lost their own son, a U.S. Marine, in Iraq from a hand grenade explosion.