Service dog will help veterans at new Marion VA PTSD facility

Teddy the service dog
Teddy the service dog

MARION, IL (KFVS) - After experiencing the horrors of war, the newly constructed Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Facility will be a safe place for veterans.

It'll be a one-of-a-kind program in the U.S. with a very unique member of the staff that doctors hope will help veterans reclaim their lives from PTSD and depression.

A dog named Teddy will be their guardian, their friend, and in a way - their therapist.

"Teddy's on staff, just like the physiologists, psychiatrists," Dr. Thomas Kadela, a recovery coordinator with the Marion V.A. "Teddy will be in group therapy, teddy will be other places in the facility, he'll be in veterans rooms working one-on-one."

Teddy will live in the new facility - but he'll be much more than a pet to the veterans who'll go there for treatment.

"They went to war, and they came back different than now they left. And we know we can help," said service dog trainer Behesha Doan with the organization This Able Veteran.

The non-profit group, This Able Veteran, donated Teddy to help veterans through their darkest days as they work toward recovery.

"Teddy is primarily trained to deal with people with PTSD and traumatic brain injury, his specialty and what we've worked with him on is to identify the bio markers that are associated with high anxiety," said Doan.

Soldiers have been in Iraq for more than eight years and in Afghanistan for nearly to 10 years. It's the longest U.S. troops have been in combat since Vietnam and the human cost of these conflicts has been high.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs - research shows between 10 and 18 percent of soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are likely to have post traumatic stress disorder when they get back.

"PTSD is actually an anxiety disorder. You're hyper vigilant, hyper alert, they constantly have intrusive thoughts they're constantly scanning what's around them because they're concerned there's a danger," said Kadela.

Service men and women are also reportedly at higher risk of other mental health problems including depression, addiction, and anger issues.

The new rehabilitation center aims to change those statistics.

If a veteran is depressed, Teddy will be there to let them know they're not alone. If a veteran is angry, upset, or anxious, Teddy's there to listen and calm their nerves. If a veteran just needs a hug - Teddy's more than happy to oblige.

"A lot of times people with PTSD isolate, and say I don't want to deal with anybody else," said Kadela. "You can yell at Teddy, you can cry in front of Teddy, you can make a fool out of yourself in front of Teddy and he doesn't judge, he doesn't care, he just loves you unconditionally."

Teddy's mission is to help veterans in any way he can so they can leave the battle field behind and return to real life.

"By treating it, you can move on with your life, knowing it's part of who you are, it becomes a memory and you move on with your life instead of a demon that you battle every day," said Kadela.

The Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Program will open later this summer.

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