AJN On the Cover
On our cover this month is military veteran Jim Stanek, 32, and his service dog, Sarge. After returning from three tours in Iraq, Jim was diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI). His wife, Lindsey, watched him endure months of anxiety, migraines, and blackouts and try to cope with his increased risk of falls and balance problems.
As part of Jim's recovery, he spent nine months at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, where he was introduced to therapy dogs and experienced comfort and relief in their presence. After his treatment, Jim and Lindsey adopted Sarge, a four-year-old golden retriever-bulldog-Catahoula mix from a shelter and sought out a service-dog trainer for him. Sarge was trained to help Jim with daily functioning and even to sense Jim's impending migraines, blackouts, and anxiety attacks and alert him before they strike. Realizing the difference a service dog made in Jim's life, the Staneks made it their mission to provide service dogs to other veterans returning from duty with PTSD and TBI.
In 2010, they launched the nonprofit Paws and Stripes, in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, with Lindsey as chief executive officer, and Jim focusing on fundraising. At no cost to veterans, Paws and Stripes social workers and trainers pair veterans with service dogs rescued from shelters and train the dogs to meet each veteran's specific needs.
Paws and Stripes is so popular that Lindsey says there are over 600 veterans on their waitlist. And the need for this kind of program is even greater now that, as of October, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs no longer covers the cost of service dogs for people with disorders such as PTSD, citing a lack of evidence to support the “medical benefit” of the dogs.
To find out more about Paws and Stripes, visit www.pawsandstripes.org. To learn more about PTSD and how veterans are affected by the disorder, see this month's Mental Health Matters.—Alison Bulman, associate editor