WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purina, in partnership with the Association of Service Dogs Providers for Military Veterans, is asking for nominations for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) service dogs across the country, including the Greater Lafayette area.
The Visible Impact Award is a new recognition that focuses on the PTSD service dogs that help military veterans across the nation. Purina is asking for service dog nominations where the finalist and their veteran can win a $10,000 cash prize along with $25,000 to go to the organization that trained their service dog.
“The Visible Impact Award is a partnership with the Association of Service Dogs Providers for Military Veterans,” Dr. RuthAnn Lobos, a lead veterinarian at Purina, said. “And really the award is kind of to celebrate in three-fold. It will not only highlight the remarkable impact that the service dog has provided for the veterans with PTSD, but it’s also going to recognize the service dog itself.
“As well as the organization that trains the service dogs. So it’s an opportunity really to celebrate holistically the impact, the organization and the dogs that provide this wonderful service.”
Those can nominate service dogs on interested DogChowVeterans.com. Nominators will be asked to fill out information about themselves, the service dog they are nominating, the veteran, how the service dog and veteran work together along with a photo or two of the dog and optionally, their veteran.
“There’s a few more days of nominations,” Lobos said. “They’re going through July 22.”
After nominations have been submitted, voting on the top five finalist service dogs will be available from Sept. 1 through Oct. 17.
“Starting Sept. 1, all dog lovers out there…and they can vote on the finalists,” Lobos said. “So it opens up to the entire country and world…The (top five) finalists do get $1,000. They do get not only recognition but a bit of a cash prize as well.”
For every vote cast during the fall timeframe, Purina Dog Chow will donate $5 to the Association of Service Dogs Providers for Military Veterans, up to $75,000. Once Veterans’ Day nears, the finalist will be decided and announced. That veteran will then receive their cash prize along with the $25,000 donation to their service dog’s training facility.
Dogs provide emotional support for veterans
Dr. Maggie O’Haire, associate professor of Human-Animal Interaction in the Center for the Human-Animal Bond at Purdue University, spoke on behalf of how and why dogs provide such emotional support to us, especially in the cases of veterans with PTSD.
O’Haire has been researching for over seven years the bond between veterans and service dogs.
“We know that veterans with PTSD are struggling,” O’Haire said. “They’re facing depression, anxiety and high rates of suicide. If you look at the numbers, veterans die by suicide by more than double the rate of civilian adults.
“…What we’re finding is that those veterans with PTSD who have service dogs begin to struggle significantly less. What they look like is they have clinically lower levels of PTSD symptoms, about 25% less, 30% lower depression, three times higher overall psychological well-being.”
While service dogs do not cure PTSD, the benefits they provide are clear to researchers. Dogs and pets in general are well known to improve our overall moods. This is something O’Haire can attest to.
“We also know that, especially now in our socially distanced world… people still crave and need that physical contact and that support,” O’Haire said. “And animals can provide that nonjudgmental support, that relationship building, that comfort that sometimes you can’t even get from another human if they are in-person.”
Nominations for the Visible Impact Award are available until Friday. Anyone interested in nominating dog and their veteran are encouraged to submit the required information at dogchowveterans.com.
Margaret Christopherson is a reporter for the Journal & Courier. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @MargaretJC2.