Therapy dogs experienced in treating combat PTSD and moral injury offertheir expertise to those fighting a battle of epic proportions

Surfing therapy dog Ricochet has joined forces with Pawsitive Teams, thetherapy dog program she is certified with, to provide Virtual Canine Therapyto doctors, nurses, other healthcare workers, and first responders on thefront lines of the Covid-19 pandemic. This partnership directly addresses themental health crisis affecting these selfless individuals.

In every other crisis, therapy dogs are called upon to provide comfort andhealing. But, due to social distancing and quarantine, animal assisted therapyprograms have been suspended.

“At a time when dogs could be truly valuable resources, we’re thinking outsidethe box in an effort to offer some form of canine therapy to the millions ofpeople around the world who need it,” said Judy Fridono, Ricochet’s guardian.

Ricochet is one of ten certified, goal-directed therapy dogs that participatesin Pawsitive Teams’ Canine Inspired Community Reintegration (CICR) program, acollaboration with Naval Medical Center San Diego.

The dogs have more than eight years of experience providing human-animalintervention for active duty service members recovering from PTSD, moralinjury, anxiety, and other mental health challenges under the guidance of anexperienced recreational therapist.

EYE CONTACT is one of the anxiety-reducing techniques that is used betweenthe service members and the dogs. Gazing into a dog’s eyes stimulates therelease of oxytocin—a hormone associated with positive, happy feelings. Afterreceiving long gazes from a dog, a person’s level of oxytocin increases, thusreducing stress and anxiety.

To assess the scientific validity of the effects of eye contact between ahuman and a dog, Ricochet, Fridono and an army veteran with PTSD participatedin a study at Duke University’s Canine Cognition Center with researchscientist Dr. Brian Hare. “Our virtual canine therapy program is based onthis premise,” said Margery Squier, Pawsitive Teams’ Program Director.

“Knowing what I do about eye contact producing oxytocin, I wondered if lookingat close-up photos of dogs’ eyes coupled with calming music would have thesame result,” said Fridono. Researchers have already determined that lookingat photos of nature for 30 to 60 seconds reduces stress. Hundreds ofindividuals who have participated in the virtual canine therapy program havereported they felt a calm, connected state of being. Cultivating these momentsallows for deep experiences of connection regardless of whether physicalcontact is made. All you need are a human and a dog with open eyes . . . andopen hearts!

It is critical to recognize that the Covid-19 pandemic is a source of greatphysical, psychological, and emotional distress for front line workers as wellas individuals and communities around the world. There will likely be doctors,nurses, and others who will need treatment for anxiety, stress, depression,PTSD, and more resulting from this crisis. Then there is the rest of the worldthat is feeling the panic of losing jobs, being ordered to stay home, theunfathomable reality of not being there when a loved one passes, and the like.

The proactive steps of Ricochet and Pawsitive Teams offering virtual caninetherapy with eye gazing will support healthcare workers, essential workers,and the world at large NOW, as well as into the future. The best part is, itcan be done on any computer or mobile device connected to the internet, and itonly takes a couple of minutes. Stressed individuals can take a quick breakfrom the chaos and find themselves less anxious after engaging in the program.We invite you and your followers to try this phenomenon at

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