Friday, May 25, 2018

K9s on the Front Line hard at work to save the lives of veterans with PTSD by Lorraine Glowczak

Dr. Hagen Blaszyk with one of his favorite canines
Memorial Day is the day we remember and honor those veterans who have passed away. Although, the non-profit and Portland based organization, K9s on the Front Line, concentrates on veterans who have returned from service and are alive. Their mission to provide trained service dogs to military veterans who are affected by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at no cost is worthy of attention. 
Their service to veterans can and has saved the lives of those who experience trauma as a result of war.

According to Dr. Hagen Blaszyk, President and Cofounder of K9s on the Front Line, PTSD occurrences contributes to 22 deaths per day in the U.S. “Veterans who experience PTSD believe that ending their life is better than continuing to live the nightmare,” explained Dr. Blaszyk, “That’s the reason why we are here and do what we do.”

The organization trains dogs to create a human-canine bond that gradually and permanently helps to manage the PTSD experience. The K9s on the Front Line staff often hear from the veterans they work in conjunction with, that the traditional treatment approaches to PTSD have not worked well for them. “Traumatic memory is not accessible by our conscious brain. The dog gets to the brain at an unconscious level,” Dr. Blaszyk stated. website explains the PTSD experience and how dogs play a role in calming the trauma and stress: “Traumatic memory, in order to protect us from overwhelming affect, is encoded in consciously inaccessible parts of our brain. Traumatic memory typically has no storyline, no beginning and no end. To make matters worse, traumatic memory is freely taken in and stored, but the person’s ability to rationalize the experience is compromised. Dogs seem to be able to read our minds, having developed the capacity to discern the most miniscule changes in our mood and behavior. A perfect example is the working dog for patients with seizure disorder, where they detect and alert the approach of seizures long before the patient becomes aware of it.” It seems that dogs play that same role in the PTSD experience.

K9s on the Front Line, established in 2016, is staffed by volunteers and 100 percent of the funds donated go directly to the purchase of dogs. The dogs are then trained on a volunteer basis by police officers who are certified canine trainers. The dogs then go home to a veteran to develop that life-saving canine-human bond.

Dr. Blaszyk explained that all volunteers have firsthand knowledge of PTSD in one way or another. “For example, the police trainers have been involved in some form of traumatic experience while working on the streets,” explained Dr. Blaszyk. “The veterans do not have to utter a single word when they walk into our space – they know we all get it and they can sense that on an emotional level. We have not walked in THEIR boots, but we are all walking in boots.”

K9s on the Front Line offers their outreach to veterans in all of Maine and New Hampshire. “If I could fast forward the clock I would bring this to a national level,” Dr. Blaszyk said. “Ideally, I would like to be able to have a complex established here in Maine and have veterans from all over the U.S. come to stay for a couple of months. We have many ideas we are discussing.”
 Dr. Blaszyk stated there is an art and science that encompasses many layers of what the organization does but one of the most important components is the role that dogs play in saving the lives of veterans. “Dogs are somehow able to soak up the negative emotions. It is miraculous,” Blaszyk said.

To learn more information or to donate to K9s on the Front Line, visit their website at k9sontheFront

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