With special skills and specific training, dogs can really help people suffering from PTSD. Not only does their presence and unconditional love provide comfort, but they can prevent bad nightmares and steady people experiencing dizziness or disorientation.
Paul Wilkie left the Armed Forces after 22 years to return home to Perth, Scotland in 2012. He got a new job in law enforcement and reunited with his wife, but things soon took a turn for the worse.
PTSD Took A Huge Toll On Wilkie’s Life
In a deeply personal and moving essay for Metro, Wilkie explained how a car accident that October triggered his PTSD:
“That one accident unlocked decades of memories I’d buried; the horrors of war, of seeing friends blown up into the pink mist, of being held at gunpoint. I was having vivid nightmares, and flashbacks throughout the day – I was constantly on the edge of being triggered.”
As many do, Wilkie turned to alcohol to numb the pain and suffering he endured. This, in turn, led to the dissolution of his marriage. PTSD also affected his ability to work.
“My marriage was over, I couldn’t work, and I didn’t have anywhere to live. I didn’t want to be in people’s way, so my solution was to move into a forest and live alone with my demons. I didn’t want to be a burden to anyone, so with the clothes on my back, my motorbike, and a tarpaulin, I retreated into the woodland.”
Receiving A Diagnosis And Welcoming Irma
Around seven to eight months later, a representative from SSAFA, an organization that assists veterans and people still serving in the Forces, came to see Wilkie. They offered to set him up with a cottage in Guildtown.
Having a roof over his head again felt like a good start to Wilkie. He was also able to receive an official diagnosis of PTSD, which would allow him to begin treatment.
Then he heard from Bravehound, a UK organization that provides training and support dogs to assist veterans. They recommended Wilkie get a dog for companionship and support. That’s when he met Irma, and she changed everything.
“Irma wakes me up when I’m reliving the trauma in my sleep. She’ll realise when I’m having a nightmare – so instead of having a full episode that lasts several minutes, within 30 seconds, she’ll wake me up by standing on my chest and licking my face.”
With Irma around, Wilkie is able to keep his flashbacks and his erratic moods under control. Irma also gives Wilkie the confidence to go out.
“She reads me like a book. She knows when I’m angry, when I’m sad, when I have flashbacks she wakes me up by licking me or touching me or standing on me.”
PTSD is a horrible condition that affects many aspects of your everyday life. Dogs like Irma make it so PTSD sufferers can live normal and even happy lives again.
Read Wilkie’s entire essay on Metro.