When an Iraq War veteran was afflicted with post-traumatic stress disorder, he was paired up with a therapy dog.
In a remarkable display of its calming power, the canine soothed the veteran on-camera when he became agitated during an interview (video below).
Veteran Erick Scott served 16 years in the U.S. Army and National Guard. After returning to his home in Florida, he discovered that his service in Iraq had left him with deep emotional scars, Shareably reports.
Haunted by the memories of fellow soldiers who had died during the Iraq War, Scott experienced night terrors that endangered his wife's safety.
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"I woke up numerous times, hitting my wife for her just laying there or just in a cold sweat," Scott recalled.
Doctors diagnosed the veteran with PTSD.
In 2014, the Department of Veterans Affairs estimated that 20 percent of veterans who had served in Iraq suffered from PTSD. The VA found that Americans who had toured in Iraq were more likely to experience PTSD than those who toured in Afghanistan, according to The Washington Post.
It also found that Iraq veterans were more likely to have experienced certain stressors during their service, such as seeing dead bodies, being shot at or ambushed by enemy combatants or knowing a comrade who had been killed.
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Scott refused the prescriptions doctors recommended for his PTSD, stating in an interview with WTLV that he would "throw [the prescriptions] right into the trash can."
Declining to accept the conventional methods of treating his condition, Scott submitted an application to K9s for Warriors, a nonprofit that provides therapy dogs to veterans who suffer from PTSD, physical injures or sexual trauma.
The Iraq veteran was introduced to a black Labrador named Gumbo, a service dog trained to sense and soothe incoming panic attacks.
During the WTLV on-camera interview, Scott recalls how angry he felt when doctors diagnosed his PTSD. As the veteran tenses up recalling that moment, his tone becomes aggressive and Gumbo is seen ambling up into his lap and giving him a kiss.
"You can tell I'm getting a little agitated," Scott says with a grin while petting his canine companion as his mood settles back down.
Veterans hoping to treat their PTSD with therapy dogs have to rely on non-profits. The VA has been testing the effectiveness of service dogs to treat the condition since 2010, drawing criticism from advocates like Rory Diamond, executive director of K9s for Warriors, The Associated Press reports.
Critics of using service dogs assert that the dogs are used as a crutch by veterans, preventing them from addressing the root causes of PTSD.
Dr. Edna Foa of the Center for Treatment of Study of Anxiety at the University of Pennsylvania believes veterans become "reliant on the dog, not on their knowledge of ... whether really they are afraid of a ghost."
Patricia Dorn director of the VA's Rehabilitation Research and Development Service noted that she had received feedback from veterans requesting that the department give them financial support for therapy dogs, but that they would have to wait until they could prove the program's effectiveness.
"We understand, veterans are not happy with the agency in that we're not just providing this benefit," Dorn told NPR in 2016. "But... we need to have the evidence base to make a determination."