BY: CAROLINE ROLF
Thousands of brave men and women travel overseas to serve their country, often finding themselves in unimaginable situations. When they return home, it can be extremely difficult to readjust from what they’ve seen during their service. Even with the support of family and professionals, the experience can be nearly impossible to talk about. Therapy can be the answer for some, for others, more unconventional methods aid in the healing process. The road to recovery is different for everyone and usually very long. But the walk back home is not one a veteran should have to make alone.
Veterans suffering from PTSD have another option other than traditional treatment and a handful of medication. It’s called ‘Wolf Therapy.’
The special program held at the Lockwood Animal Rescue Center in Frazier Park, California, is helping veterans who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to heal in a very unique way – by bringing them together with wolves. Nearly 50 wolves belong to Warriors and Wolves – many of which have been rescued from traumatic situations. Similar to the veterans who visit, the wolves are also in a process of healing.
Veterans who take part in the program are experiencing post-traumatic stress disorders, complex stress disorders and traumatic brain injuries. This can impede their ability to find other work and reconnect with loved ones. Warriors and Wolves accommodates the needs of the individual, including medical treatment, physiotherapy and mental health appointments. To ensure sobriety is maintained while completing the program, a requirement at the center, volunteers offer peer-to-peer counseling and fellowship gatherings.
Animals and nature offer a special chance to heal and remember how to be trusting, calm and fearless once more. The wolves that are rescued from a rough setting come to the facility unsure if they belong in the home or the wilderness. They may be drawn to humans but still have natural instinct. Connecting with veterans makes for an amazing relationship because this personality confusion in both man and beast helps them relate. This is an opportunity for veterans to help another living being before entering back into society. With a newfound confidence and interpersonal skills, veterans can gain employment and reunite with their families again. In this unique work environment, veterans and wolves are helping each other to heal.
“There’s something about being part of nature. There’s something about being around these animals,” says co-founder/veteran Matthew Simmons. “To even the most wounded veteran, they feel different. It keeps them a part of something greater than themselves.”