The Long Awaited Return to In-Person Canine-Assisted Warrior Therapy®
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Paws for Purple Hearts has kept the connection to our nation’s Warriors alive by using creative solutions. In Virginia, for example, Canine-Assisted Warrior Therapy® has taken place via videoconference. Across the country in the San Francisco Bay Area, PPH dogs have been visiting Veterans at their windows at the VA facility in Menlo Park, CA. Way up north in Anchorage, Alaska, our Alaska team conducts therapy sessions outdoors with Veterans from the VA Domiciliary. Each Paws for Purple Hearts site around the USA has also been holding weekly Facebook Live broadcasts to help our Warriors stay connected. Now, several months into the pandemic, some teams are resuming Canine-Assisted Warrior Therapy sessions in-person!
In-person Canine-Assisted Warrior Therapy resumes in Virginia
Last week, at a local park, our Ruther Glen, Virginia-based team held its first in-person Canine-Assisted Warrior Therapy® session in months. Before this, all group sessions were conducted virtually via videoconference. During the session, trainers and Warriors followed Virginia’s Phase Three guidelines and the VA’s policies by observing precautions such as staying six feet apart and wearing face masks.
Although this session looked different than the sessions before the pandemic, our program goals are the same. By providing structured, positive interactions with our dogs, we can help reduce the symptoms of trauma-related conditions in our Warriors.
Program Instructor Alissa Berg said,
“It was wonderful to see our Warriors in person again! It felt like ages since they’ve interacted with the dogs. Everyone was so happy and surprised how lanky the pups have gotten!”
First Canine-Assisted Warrior Therapy Session for New Pups
Not only was this session special for being the first live interaction in months. It was also the first time our Warriors met our Ruther Glen team’s puppies, Antje (AJ) and Hicks in person.
Therapeutic Recreation Therapist, Freda Sergi, who partners with us to provide Canine-Assisted Warrior Therapy, enthused,
“It was a long-awaited opportunity to be able to finally meet some of the puppies in training in person.”
She went on to say,
“Our virtual sessions the last few months have been essential to keep our veterans connected to the training concepts, to the staff, and to each other. However, our in-person session this week was incredible. AJ and Hicks worked their magic and brought some much needed ‘pawsitivity’ and humor to the veterans!”
How you can help!
Our work does not stop because of COVID-19. Paws for Purple Hearts continues to make our assistance dog and therapeutic programs available to America’s Warriors free of charge. We won’t let our Warriors suffer alone. Now, more than ever, it is essential to give our veterans and active duty service members the kind of support they need to help them on the road to recovery.