New Bill Hopes to Reunite Soldiers With Canine Companions
A new Arizona bill may help veteran soldiers reunite with their beloved military dogs.
There are many touching stories about soldiers bonding with military dogs while fighting overseas. Often, these dogs help soldiers get through trauma and hardship even if they are not trained therapy dogs. Yet when soldiers come back home, the dogs stay on tour or return to a different area. Some soldiers never see their canine companions again, and that can be heartbreaking for them. These stories have become so common that a major film studio recently dedicated a movie to cover such stories. The film, simply known as "Max," tells the story of a military dog who can finally come home to his loving veteran after going through a traumatic experience. Yet unlike this heartwarming story, some are not reunited with their human friends, and it is becoming a growing problem. That is where the Arizona bill steps in.
A happy reunion
In 2014, Army veteran Josh Tucker was missing his canine companion, Ellen. Ellen helped Tucker through some tough times overseas and he wished that she was still with him to help him adjust to life back home. The pair met while serving in Afghanistan. Ellen, a black Labrador Retriever, helped sniff out bombs in the area. Tucker was dismissed from duty in 2011 after sustaining a traumatic brain injury. The two were separated, and it seemed like they would never be reunited.
Luckily, they met again after two years thanks to U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. She heard about Tucker's story and realized how much Ellen could help him recover from post-traumatic stress disorder.
"It makes no sense to have a talented dog like this sit in a runner (enclosure) when she could be helping a serviceman cope with PTSD," she told the The Republic.
After seeing how grateful Tucker was, Sinema has decided to help others by pushing for a bill that would bring military dogs and veterans back together. The bill is called the Military Working Dogs Retirement Act. It would allow retired dogs who are still overseas to be sent back to the U.S. Once they arrive home, they would be adopted by their handlers, interested military veterans or the general public.
Ellen was adopted by Tucker, which he claims was a life-saving decision. The dog was able to notify his wife in the middle of the night when Tucker had a seizure, and has since helped him get through his PTSD symptoms.
"As far as PTSD goes, she's good with detecting when I start to get upset by either distracting me or forcing me to leave," he said. "A lot of people go into combat and seek out other people who have been in combat because they can relate to them. Having Ellen around ... she's the only one that understands. That's been kind of a comfort," he told the news source.
Giving dogs a new purpose
Normally, dogs are adopted from their military base when they cannot pass certain tests anymore. There are plenty of programs in place that put these dogs up for adoption, such as the Warrior Dog Foundation. Other times, these military dogs are re-purposed for helping law enforcement out in the U.S. For example, some dogs in Indianapolis are now helping policemen locate methamphetamine throughout the city, according to the Albuquerque Journal.