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

Changing Under Pressure, IS ‘Potent’ as Ever

US intel officials describe Ramadi's fall as concerning, but say it isn't emblematic of larger effort to degrade IS capabilities More

Nigeria Fuel Shortage Shows Fragility of Africa’s Oil Giant

Although it is the largest oil producer in Africa, country has nearly ran out of fuel it needs to power its generators, cars and airplanes over the past week More

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer 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.
3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Cari
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
May 27, 2015 9:31 PM
Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

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.”