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Duty Dogs: Part One - KOAM TV 7

Duty Dogs: Part One

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Research shows that dogs can  help veterans who are dealing with emotional and psychological effects from serving.  There is an abundance of examples of dogs who have helped their veteran owners overcome obstacles and find hope. Here, two dogs are doing just this for southwest Missouri veterans.

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Ike Fretz credits Bernie for his strength. 

"When I'm around crowds and everything else, he's my safe place. He's my Linus' blanket to me, in regards to Peanuts."

Bernie is a service dog. He is trained to help Fretz through stressful situations.  

"Everywhere I go, he goes with me. He'll get in between anyone and myself. He's my bodyguard literally," said Fretz.

An army veteran, Fretz is 100 percent disabled. He was injured in desert storm and suffers from post traumatic stress disorder, a problem that once robbed him of his quality of life.

"You don't leave the house very often. You isolate from society and having a service dog, you end up getting out and becoming part of society again."

"It focuses their attention off themselves and their own feelings and puts it on this dog. And hey, the dog wants to go out for a walk, for example. It could begin with just something so simple as that. They get the courage to go out and the dog is so happy. They focus on the dog instead of their internal feelings."

Dannette Harrington is a licensed clinical social worker with the ozark center. She works with patients, some veterans, who suffer from depression, PTSD and anxiety. She says a dog can make a tremendous impact for someone dealing with such issues.  

"When they begin to get into what they call 'a mood,' where they begin to feel so fearful and scared and maybe paranoid or acting out in rage, as soon as they see their dog... Ahhh... They drop it, because they thing 'how is that dog reacting to me now?'"

A dog can also act as an extension of their owner. Like Samsun, who acts as a voice to veteran Jim Parrish.

"He's also trained to interact with people. Because of my disabilities, i tend to shy away from people because I can't talk."

Parrish served for a combined 24 years, in the Air Force and Army National Guard. He developed a rare vocal disorder and also suffers from PTSD. He credits Samsun for giving him his life back.

"Samsun goes everywhere with me. When I have anxious moments at night and I have a hard time breathing, Samsun is right next to me and helps calms me down and get me back on track."

These dogs have a duty: to help our nations heroes. Experts say, there is a growing need for the therapy they offer. 

"We are trying to step up to meet the needs of veterans, to come up with different types of PTSD therapies and treatments, such as prolonged exposure, different innovative state-of-the-art things we're going to be doing," said Harrington. "I believe therapy dogs are right at the top of that."

When it comes to Bernie, Fretz says he helps with his disability, but even more with all of life's possibilities.  

"You can't give up, because they need you as much as you need them. And that's what it's all about to me."

Fretz is raising funds to ride from Washington DC to Virginia Beach  for the Memorial Challenge this month. Bernie will be joining him. You can donate to his endeavors here

 

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