According to the Department of Defense, at least 130 active military service members took their own lives in the first half of 2017. The steady rise in military suicides has caused medical facilities to reach for new, unique treatments.
A naval clinic on Maryland’s Joint Base Andrews has found a highly effective (and adorable) method for comforting its sailors and marines – a Golden Retriever/Yellow Lab mix named Brad!
Senior Chief Brad spends his days weaving throughout the military clinic’s waiting room in search of men and women in need of his unique brand of therapy. As they await their regular doctor’s appointments, Chief Brad uses his innate ability to identify those in distress.
When he hits upon a silently suffering serviceman or woman, he alerts his handler, Chief Bobby Long, who then steps in to assess and counsel the patient.
“People that need a little extra attention or are maybe showing signs of irritability, stress, depression, whatever it could be; he will really focus in on that person and then he wants my attention,” Long told Fox News. “Some of the science behind that shows that dogs can pick up on pheromones that people emit when they are highly stressed and some science points to body language, cues that people leave.“
According to Kim Hyde, a manager with Southeastern Guide Dogs, there are only 29 dogs across the country with this ability. Brad was initially trained as a seeing-eye dog and a post-traumatic stress disorder therapy dog before finding his niche as a stress dog.
Chief Brad has worked alongside Long for the past two years in medical facilities across the Washington, D.C. metro area as well as Joint Base Andrews. The pair also make “house calls” around the base, providing emotional support to anyone who is having a bad day.
“Just kneeling with Brad, rubbing his ear, watching his tail wag, it rejuvenates me. It reminds me of what’s important in life,” Navy Commander Damon Hildebrand said.
He may comfort a sailor undergoing a transition in his career, a marine battling home sickness, or an entire unit coping with a traumatic event, like the suicide of a brother or sister in arms.
“(What) Brad does for us is…he lifts us to a higher level. He lifts us to a place where we can heal effectively, take our mind off that stress even just momentarily, enabling us to heal in a proper manner, a healthy manner,” Hildebrand said.
Chief Brad and Chief Long will be retiring in May and heading to Kosovo where they will work with the Department of State and other military branches. Naval Air Facility-Washington (NAF-W) commanding officer Capt. Robert Coogan said he hopes to see other dogs like Brad “join the Navy” in the future.
“It’s more of an emotional bond that’s really unique in what a dog can provide,” he said, “and we look to expand this program not only with the branch medical clinic here at JBA but across the Navy fleet.”
H/T & Featured Screenshot via Fox News