1 minute reading time (231 words)

The Empathetic Dog

Cate and I wanted you to see this this is an excerpt from "The Empathetic Dog" by Emilie Le Beau Lucchesi in NYT today.

Entire story HERE

Benjamin Stepp, an Iraq war veteran, sat in his graduate school course trying to focus on the lecture. Neither his classmates nor his professor knew he was silently seething.

But his service dog, Arleigh, did. She sensed his agitation and “put herself in my lap,” said Mr. Stepp, 37, of Holly Springs, Miss. “I realized I needed to get out of class. We went outside, I calmed down. We breathed.”

During his two deployments to Iraq, Mr. Stepp endured a traumatic brain injury and multiple surgeries on his ankle, and most days he suffers excruciating pain in his legs and lower back. He says he also returned from the war with a lot of anger, which wells up at unexpected times.

“Anger kept us alive overseas,” Mr. Stepp said. “You learn that anger keeps you alive.”

Now that he is back, though, that anger no longer serves a useful purpose. And Arleigh, a retriever mix who came to Mr. Stepp from K9s For Warriors, a nonprofit organization that trains service dogs, has been helping him to manage it. The dog senses when his agitation and anxiety begin rising, and sends him signals to begin the controlled breathing and other exercises that help to calm him down.

 

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