Therapy on Four Legs
Lucien Masson, a 60-year-oldVietnam veteran from Arizona, put it simply: “Sascha is the best medicine I’ve
Lucien is speaking about his friend, companion, and perhaps even his therapist, a Russian wolfhound
named Sascha. Lucien suﬀers from posttraumaticstress disorder(PTSD),a disorderthat has had a profoundly
negative impact on his life for many years. His symptoms include panic attacks, nightmares,and road rage.
Lucien has tried many solutions, consulting with doctors, psychiatrists, and psychologists, and using a
combination of drugs, group therapy, and anger-management classes.
But Sascha seems to be the best therapistof all. He helps out in many ways. If a strangergets too close to
Lucien in public, Sascha will block the strangerwith his body. Sascha is trainedto sense when Lucien is about
to have a nightmare, waking him before it starts. Before road rage can set in, Sascha gently whimpers,
reminding his owner that it doesn’t pay to get upset about nutty drivers.
In the same way, formerArmy medic Jo Hanna Schaﬀerspeaksof her Chihuahua,Cody: “I never took a pill
for PTSD that did as much for me as Cody has done.”PersianGulf War veteranKaren Alexanderfeels the same
way about her Bernese mountain dog, Cindy:
She’llcome up and touch me, and that is enough of a stimulusto break the loop, bring me
back to reality.SometimesI’llscratchmy hand untilit’sraw and won’trealizeuntilshe comes
up to me and brings me out. She’s such a grounding inﬂuence for me.
Can psychiatric therapy dogs help people who suﬀer from PTSD?
INTRODUCTION TO PSYCHOLOGY
These dramatic stories of improvement from debilitating disorders can be attributed to an alternative
psychologicaltherapy,based on establishedbehavioralprinciples,providedby “psychiatricservice dogs.”The
dogs are trained to help people with a variety of mental disorders,including panic attacks,...