As my first semester at Penn State begins to come to a close, i’ve been reflecting back on how many absolutely adorable puppies i’ve seen around campus. However, these aren’t your typical animals. These are dogs that are being raised to positively affect someones life. In one of my previous posts I discussed animal testing and why you could argue that it is a waste. That is definitely a controversial topic, however, the fact that we (as humans) NEED services dogs surely is not. More specifically, I am interested in how animals can help veterans– people who have sacrificed and possibly lost so much from their lives after not having to rely on anyone for anything up to that point.
Service dogs have been proven to help with physical disabilities such as hearing and vision difficulties in addition to balance and anxiety issues. The The Military Times has even been publishing recent studies that research how dogs may be able to help veterans with PTSD. Marguerite O’Haire, an assistant professor of Human-Animal interaction at Purdue University, is conducting an experiment consisting of 100 post-9/11 veterans split into 50 with dogs and 50 without. Tests to measure different variables will be conducted and will provide the basis of a pilot study that could eventually lead into further exploration of the importance of service animals in relation to veterans.
image found here
The null hypothesis is that dogs used to help veterans cope with PTSD will not be successful and won’t have a positive impact on their lives. The alternative hypothesis is that these animals will positively influence veterans and their overall quality of life by providing them with a constant companion.
For this longitudinal study, O’Haire addresses the fact that non biased data is necessary in order to find a reliable foundation of data to build off of. The study was paused and then restarted in 2012 with a larger sample size. This emotional support service dog study was still ongoing when the article was published, but it is safe to assume that Purdue’s research in pairing veterans with PTSD dogs will be progressive in finding ways to comfort fellow americans who were so selfless that quality of life was lessened upon their arrival.
It is clear to see how much potential this research has. To myself along with so many others that I know, pets are just companions– “extra” things that do make us happy and can arguably make life better, but we don’t necessarily rely on them. But to those who are less fortunate, or who deserve to have some emotional outlet, canines have the potential to be so much more.