HELPING TEACHERS INSPIRE COMPASSION
FOR ANIMALS, PEOPLE & THE ENVIRONMENT

After the War: Animals Helping Veterans

Animals had, and continue to have an important role to play in war. In last year’s Remembrance Day blog we discussed the role animals played in The First World War. This year we are looking at service dogs, and the important role they have in helping veterans who are dealing with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after service. I recently came across Chad’s story from a CBC article, and wanted to share.

In 2010 Chad Miron deployed for an eight-month tour in Afghanistan. During his time, the Taliban attacked his outpost, almost daily, and the threat of stepping on explosive devices or IEDs was a constant worry. The day he had to transport the remains of a Canadian soldier killed by an IED was, what Chad refers to as, his most difficult day.

When Chad returned home from his tour in Afghanistan, he faced a new struggle with PTSD.  He had trouble sleeping, felt angry all the time and would avoid friends and family by not leaving his home. No treatment seemed to work effectively until his psychologist suggested that he get a service dog to help him cope. He was willing to try anything so he agreed.

Chad’s service dog, Norman helps him get outside by needing walks and bathroom breaks. While in public, if necessary, Norman can act as a barrier, to prevent others from getting too close to Chad. When Norman is instructed to ‘seek’ he searches their home to let Chad know that it is safe. Norman will even try to get petted when he senses Chad starting to get angry to shift Chad’s focus. Chad believes he owes his recovery largely to his service dog. The relationship and level of trust between Chad and Norman showcases just how strong the human-animal bond is and demonstrates how intelligent and capable dogs are.

A screen shot from the CBC video of Service dog, Norman, who helps veteran Chad cope with his PTSD

This Remembrance Day, we encourage you to discuss service animals with your students, and the impact they have on those who serve.

Read the CBC article or watch the video (6:01) with your students. The video may not be appropriate for all classrooms as some of the footage includes images and sounds of war. The video is suitable for junior high and up (preview to make sure it’s suitable for your class).

Discussion Questions and Activities

Pre-Video Discussion Questions

  • What is a service dog?
  • Have you seen a service dog before? If so, describe the situation.
  • What are some reasons someone might require a service dog?
  • Can any dog become a service dog? Why or why not?
  • What are other ‘jobs’ dogs can do? Brainstorm a list.

Post-Video Discussion Questions

  • Why does Chad require a service dog?
  • What are some of the ways Norman helps Chad?
  • How would you describe the relationship between the Chad and Norman?
  • What other animal species can be a service animal?

Activities

  1. Create a Poster – Individually or in pairs, have students research different ways service animals can help people, including guidelines for when you meet a service dog in public. Have students create a poster that illustrates the work service dogs do, including do’s and don’ts of how to interact with a service dog. Hang the posters in your classroom or school hallways to help continue the conversation about the important work these animals do.
  2. Becoming Service Animals – How do dogs become service animals? Individually or in groups have students spend some time researching what it takes to become a service dog. Are some breeds more common than others? Do certain characteristics help? How much training is involved? Have students share what they’ve learned with another classmate or group.
  3. Dogs with Jobs – Norman is a service dog trained to help veterans dealing with PTSD, meaning that he was trained to perform specific tasks and to work with people with specific needs. Other types of jobs dogs can have include working, therapy, and emotional support dogs (see teacher resources below for an explanation). Divide the class into four groups and assign one of the dog jobs to each group. Have the groups research the job type and come up with a clear definition of what the job is, what the job entails, and how it differs from the other types. Have each group share their findings, and then as a class compare and contrast the different types of dog jobs.

Teacher Resources (additional information)

If you do any of these activities with your class, we would love to hear about it. Let us know by emailing education@albertaspca.org and your class will be added to our Kindness Map!

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Blog posts represent the opinion of the author and not necessarily the opinion of the Alberta SPCA.