A canine hero's remarkable PTSD journey

Ddoc--yep, you read that right--Ddoc--was deployed as a military working dog in Afghanistan. One day on patrol mortar fire blew the dog and his handler off their feet. Ddoc dragged his handler to safety and stood guard until it was safe to return to base. But this courageous act came with consequences--canine post-traumatic stress disorder.
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Jun 26, 2014
By dvm360.com staff

When Sergeant Chloe Wells first met Ddoc, a Belgian Malinois and retired military working dog, he was in need of a new home. Chloe already shared her home with another Malinois and a German Shepherd, but she couldn't ignore this veteran in need. So she made a commitment to keep him, at least until she could find him a good home.

From the moment Ddoc joined their household, Chloe could tell Ddoc needed help. When artillery fired at nearby Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Ddoc jumped up and frantically ran around the table. He stayed alert, shaking. Chloe, who is a behavioral health therapist at Fort Bragg, believed she noticed parallels between Ddoc's behavior and the soldiers she counseled who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

Chloe reached out to Ddoc's former handler in Afghanistan, Mike, who described a terrifying scenario: Only a few months before, Mike had been on patrol with Ddoc when mortar fire blew Mike and Ddoc off their feet. Mike landed on top of Ddoc. When Mike tried to return fire, Ddoc stopped him. Dragging Mike to a ditch, Ddoc stood guard until they could safely return to base. But that night Ddoc hid beneath Mike's bed. He wouldn't come out the next morning and wouldn't go on patrol, so Ddoc was eventually sent home.

From that moment on Chloe and her husband Jeff knew Ddoc had to stay with them. At night, he slept next to their bed. He trembled and cried out in his sleep, and Chloe often comforted him. She sought help from a veterinarian, who prescribed antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication. And Chloe began to take Ddoc on long runs.

Every day Chloe worked with Ddoc, offering comfort, exercise regimens and supporting the dog and introducing him to new people and things while offering reassurance. She recognized healing was a journey, and gradually she began to notice changes in Ddoc's behavior. He began to let new people pet him. He started to let other dogs sniff him, and he'd sometimes sniff back.

In his military career, Ddoc found 14 IEDs. Today, he's training to become a therapy dog, and Chloe's taken him to meet the soldiers she works with. "He's still a warrior, but on a new and different mission, one I am proud to serve with him," Chloe writes. Chloe and Ddoc also work hard to support Combat Canines: The Ddoc Foundation. The organization spreads the word about canine PTSD and offers support to make sure retired military working dogs are paired with trained and experienced trainers, veterinarians and behaviorists in their area to offer the support these canines need. To learn more, visit Combat Canines here.

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