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Canines Making a Difference

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Cheryl Krause-Parello is an animal lover. Her spouse, a marine veteran and detective with the NYPD, was involved in the rescue and recovery efforts of September 11. He did not grow up around pets, but had a cherished relationship with the couple’s dachshund, Samantha. “I watched every night from a distance and the dachshund really saved him; he pet his stress away,” Krause-Parello said. Krause-Parello could not sit and watch quietly anymore when she knew other animals could make the same difference. The couple came up with the name C-P.A.W.W.; a program to pair canines with wounded veterans.

The mission is on its sixth year and Krause-Parello cannot imagine anything she would rather be doing. “I am blending my passion for nursing, science, human-animal interaction, military, and veterans to bring some hope to this population that sometimes does not feel they have the support they need,” she said. Florida Atlantic University’s Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing is now home to C-P.A.W.W. “We want to be able to connect veterans with companion animals, especially for injuries that are not quite as visible like posttraumatic stress disorder, but it’s not reimbursed by health insurance and can cost as much as $30,000 for up to two years just to train the animal,” said Gisele Galoustian, media relations director at Florida Atlantic University. This is where community volunteers and financial support are imperative.

C-P.A.W.W. is responding to the research that shows protective factors are needed against suicide in the military population as well as an improved understanding of palliative effects of animal-assisted interventions. “There are physical and psychological benefits when a veteran goes to a therapy session with an animal present. The dogs decrease a patient’s stress and they feel less anxious,” Krause-Parello said. The impact of social connectedness is even revealed in studies. “With our research using biomarkers to look at stress indicators to see what the body is doing and how it reacts when a person is with the dog, we find there are stress reduction biomarkers happening with cortisol and immunoglobulin A and the animals can support positive health, which is fantastic,” Krause-Parello continued. 

A wide range of canines lend their paws to this initiative… from St. Bernard’s to huskies. They may be service dogs, therapy dogs, companion animals, or simply personal pets. “A larger dog is more for physical help, for example if someone has a prosthetic and needs help with balance, since it can brace them when walking, as opposed to a smaller dog for emotional support that someone can have on his lap,” Krause-Parello said. There is no one-size-fits-all approach and dogs can be trained regardless of whether the need is psychological or physical. 

Since the launch is so fresh at Florida Atlantic University there is a website and Facebook to gain social media presence. If you or a beloved veteran can benefit from this program, do not hesitate to reach out and make contact. “The suicide rate is so high and sometimes veterans do not feel there are any options out there for them so some seek out a service animal that gives them a sense of purpose,” said Krause-Parello. If you feel inclined to donate, your money can go toward supporting the research that may eventually encourage lawmakers to make a public policy change. It is truly amazing what these dogs can do. For more information and ways to get involved, contact Krause-Parello at cpaww@health.fau.edu or visit nursing.fau.edu/cpaww.

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