BreakThru News, Ep. 15: Paws for PTSD


By Charlotte Thun-Hohenstein

Captain Luis Carlos Montalvan is a highly decorated veteran. For his 17 years in the US Army, including two tours of duty in Iraq, he has received a Purple Heart, two Bronze Stars, and the Combat Action Badge, among others. These awards have come at a high price, and Luis is now an active advocate for issues pertaining to veterans, disabilities (a direct result of his service), and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Upon returning home after two tours in Iraq, including a surprise attack by hostile locals, PTSD threatened to derail his transition into civilian life. Luis’ experience is unfortunately common for soldiers: some estimates claim as many as one in three servicemen are affected by the condition. That wartime’s violence and high stakes would play devastating havoc with someone’s mind is not surprising, but too few soldiers receive, or even seek out, adequate therapy.

Luis attributes his own return to life to Tuesday, a golden retriever service dog and now lifelong companion. The use of service dogs to heal soldiers is now gaining momentum with programs such as Paws for Purple Hearts, though official recommendations still emphasize medication and cognitive behavioral therapy as primary treatments.

However, the role of dogs can be uniquely therapeutic: not only do they offer the unconditional affection that even one’s closest loved ones might struggle to give when frustrated or upset, but the process of training dogs can draw PTSD sufferers out of their concerns and help them engage with the world in a constructive and positive way. Those living in warmer climates might even be able to do animal therapy with dolphins.

Sixty percent of American adults will experience at least one trauma in their lives, while 7-8 percent will face PTSD. We still don’t understand what decides who merely goes through stress and who develops PTSD, but there is no doubt that someone suffering from the condition needs help. PTSD might not kill directly, but it destroys one’s quality of life—nightmares, flashbacks, deep apathy towards loved ones and activities, a constant state of ‘fight or flight’ are just some potential symptoms. All too often, the person does not even realize that PTSD might be the cause.

To this end, BTN embraced this month’s ‘PTSD Awareness’ campaign and talked with Capt. Montalvan in-studio about his experience. And of course we were joined by the beautiful (and well-behaved) Tuesday.

Video Credits
Host, Writer – Charlotte Thun-Hohenstein
Video Editor – Andy Morell
Script Supervisor – Matthew DeMello

with guests – Captain Luis Carlos Montalvan, Tuesday