Ft. Campbell Enforcing Stricter Rules For Service Dogs
CLARKSVILLE, Tenn- It's not therapy or medication that's helping a growing number of Fort Campbell veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, it's service dogs that are trained to help them overcome their mental war wounds.
But across the country, the military recently adopted a stricter policy surrounding service dogs. Many are not allowed inside the gates without very specific behavioral training. The new rules all stem from an incident that happened just outside Ft. Campbell last January; when a 6 year old Kentucky boy was mauled to death by a trained and certified PTSD dog.
It's been exactly six months since six year old Steven Robertson was mauled to death in his Oak Grove backyard when he was left alone with a friend's PTSD service dog.
Steven's death prompted Ft. Campbell to require specific behavioral training before any service dog is allowed inside these gates.
"They are trying to make sure that not anyone can put a vest on a dog and call it trained. And that is reasonable," said Jodi McCullouh from the SAFE program that helps soldiers with mental illness.
The new rules make it hard for vets like Chris Crawford and his service dog, Wolfgang. He hasn't been on post to visit friends, go to the doctor or shop at commissary because he doesn't want to leave his Siberian Husky behind
"I don't want to have to leave him at home because what if I have a panic attack and boom, I don't have him?" questioned Crawford.
Service dogs like Wolfang are helping a growing number of veterans cope with PTSD and the transition back into civilian life. The dogs know how to turn on lights, when a panic attack is happening and even when to wake them up from a bad dream.
"If I have a nightmare he will stick his cold, wet nose in my eyeball to wake me up and I can't go anywhere without him," he said.
Everywhere except Ft. Campbell.
The required training to allow them in is expensive, sometimes hard to find and can take six weeks to complete.
But McCullouh at SAFE said it is worth the time and money. She's already seen an amazing improvement in Crawford in a short three months.
"Wolfgang has been healing for Chris. First of all he has been a different person ever since he saw Wolfgang he was hopeful of getting him but when he actually did get him you could just see a change in his demeanor," she said.
Crawford hopes skeptics will see how his service dog has changed his life for the better. "He is my world now, next to my baby he is my best friend," he said.
There is a trainer at Total Canine Care in Clarksville who agreed to give the required six week training for service dogs on post for free at her facility near Riverside Drive. She hopes to help veterans like Crawford go on post with the pet they rely to keep the stable.