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There are a number of organizations which help provide service dogs to veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. But the Dog T.A.G.S. program in Mechanicsburg offers veterans the opportunity to actually be involved in training their own dogs to become certified as service dogs, and learn specialized tasks to help them deal with their PTSD issues.
Dog T.A.G.S. stands for train, assist, guide and serve. Qualified dog trainers work with the veterans in training their dogs in weekly sessions. The veterans also meet together as a support group with a social worker to share their thoughts and experiences.
Kim and Doug Maugans are leaders in the group and helped found the program. Kim has been a dog trainer for over ten years. Doug is an army veteran himself who spent nearly three years hospitalized for combat PTSD.
The dogs are trained in specific tasks to help their masters. Because combat PTSD often makes veterans hyper-vigilant, the very presence of the dogs as extra eyes and ears can be reassuring and calming. The dogs can be trained to move between the veteran and approaching strangers, keeping a buffer zone that allows the veterans their personal space. Some dogs are trained to remind their masters when to take their meds, and wake them if they experience nightmares, even turn on the light.
Beyond the different tasks, many veterans cite the bond between humans and canine as one of the most healing aspects of all.
Below you can hear our feature on the Dog T.A.G.S. program, and check out their website for more information.
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