News / Arts & Entertainment

Service Dogs Help War Wounded

New film highlights unique relationship, PTSD, mental illness

Multimedia

Audio
David Byrd

The U.S. military uses dogs to help troops on sentry duty and bomb-sniffing patrols. But dogs are also proving their worth off the field of battle by helping wounded soldiers recover.

A new documentary focuses on one of these service dogs and the many lives he has touched.

Emmy-award winning actress Glenn Close produced the piece. She's best known for her many roles in film and on television - from the obsessive lover in "Fatal Attraction," to her latest role as high stake litigator Patty Hewes in the FX television series "Damages."

But now Close has taken on the new role of activist. She's focused on removing the stigma of mental illness. The 22-minute documentary, "Pax," is part of her efforts.

Bill Campbell, an Iraq war veteran, says Pax helps him cope with symptoms of PTSD.
Bill Campbell, an Iraq war veteran, says Pax helps him cope with symptoms of PTSD.

Making a difference

Bill Campbell, an Iraq war veteran with a 100 percent disability due to concussive brain injury, received a beautiful yellow Labrador called Pax.

Pax was trained by Laurie Kellogg at Bedford Hills Women's Correctional Facility. The fact that Pax came into Bill Campbell's life made his life once again possible.

Close lives near the New York state prison, and volunteered there with a writing rehabilitation program. Bedford Hills is also home to the nonprofit Puppies Behind Bars, in which inmates raise and train service dogs. One of its programs is called Dog Tags, specifically to assist wounded veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Glenn Close says when she learned that Sgt. Bill Campbell - the first veteran to receive a Dog Tag dog - was returning to the prison to meet the inmate who trained Pax, she had to capture that moment. There wasn't time to hire a film crew so she and her assistant, filmmaker Sarah Harvey, grabbed their personal video cameras and headed to the prison.

"We just were there and we just did it. We had basically no huge plan," says the actress. "But then it became so affecting and really important as far as recognizing a wounded veteran like Bill Campbell and the dog that really has saved him and the inmate that trained the dog.  And what programs like this do for the inmates, it was something that we said 'you know, let's make it into a documentary."

Sgt. Campbell with Pax, wife Domenica (left) and Brig. Gen. Loree Sutton (right)
Sgt. Campbell with Pax, wife Domenica (left) and Brig. Gen. Loree Sutton (right)

That meeting between Sgt. Campbell and Pax's trainer, Laurie Kellogg, is the climax of the film.

Special bond

"He [Pax] gave me back pieces of myself that I forgot even existed," says Kellogg. "And when he left me and they told me he was going to you, Bill, I sat on my floor and cried. And I realized that by giving me Pax and taking him from me, they had given me the greatest gift anybody had ever given me in my life. That he restored my soul."

After the documentary's premiere in Washington, Bill Campbell's wife, Domenica, said that Pax helps her husband in multiple ways - including when Sgt. Campbell struggles with the hyper-vigilance that is one of the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

"We'll go into a restaurant for instance and previously it was, 'Where can I sit with my back to a wall? Where is my clearest vantage point?'" says Campbell. "Now when we go in it's, 'Which table has the least crumbs under it? Where is going to be a good place for Pax to be?' So that's been a really helpful thing."

But helping wounded veterans with PTSD or brain injury is not the only thing the Puppies Behind Bars program has done.The film shows how training the dogs has transformed the prison inmates as well.

Helping the war effort

Puppies Behind Bars founder and director Gloria Gilbert Stoga says that she had no idea how many inmates, guards and officials were touched by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"There's a sense in the whole prison community [that] everybody, via these dogs, is doing something for the war effort," says Stoga.

"There's a buoyancy in prison now, it sounds like an oxymoron, but there's a buoyancy in prison now because a lot of people have a stake in helping our war wounded."

Dr. Joan Esnyara, president and founder of the Psychiatric Service Dog Society in Arlington, Virginia, says the bond between service dogs and their handlers makes the animals uniquely qualified to deal with PTSD symptoms, including dissociative episodes, or flashbacks.

"Dogs that are very bonded to their handlers can witness when, if you are looking into someone's eyes and 'the lights go out' metaphorically speaking. The dogs pick up on that," she says. "They know that their owner has just dissociated and a lot of them will just spontaneously nudge their owners to try to kind of get them back to consciousness."

Bridge to understanding

Brig. Gen. Loree Sutton is the director of the Defense Centers for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury. She notes that, while soldiers like Bill Campbell and others wage war, healers like Pax and those working with wounded veterans provide hope.

Actress Glenn Close hopes
Actress Glenn Close hopes "Pax" will change the public's image of mental illness, including PTSD.

"And the hope that Pax has given to you Bill and now all of us becomes the bridge, the bridge to be able to connect," says Sutton. "Perhaps if we had a Pax, we could refocus on what is really important: the relationship, the love, being kinder than necessary. For every one of is fighting some sort of battle."

Mental health is a very personal issue for Glenn Close. Her sister and her nephew struggle with different mental disorders.  

The actress says she hopes "Pax" can change the public's image of mental illness, including PTSD. And she hopes her celebrity and advocacy will help the thousands struggling with mental disorders realize they are not alone.

You May Like

Photogallery Strong Words Start, May End, S. African Xenophobic Attacks

President Jacob Zuma publicly condemned rise in attacks on foreign nationals but critics say leadership has been less than welcoming to foreign residents More

Video Family Waits to Hear Charges Against Reporter Jailed in Iran

Reports in Iran say Jason Rezaian has been charged with espionage, but brother tells VOA indictment has not been made public More

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Action to Stabilize Libya

Amnesty International says multinational concerted humanitarian effort must be enacted to address crisis; decrepit boats continue to bring thousands of new arrivals daily More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”