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    Bear on Base!

    Bear on Base!

    Photo By Staff Sgt. Kevin Schulze | 181st Intelligence Wing therapy dog, Bear, poses for a photograph at Hulman Field Air...... read more read more



    Story by Airman 1st Class Kevin Schulze 

    181st Intelligence Wing Public Affairs

    HULMAN FIELD AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Ind.– A Bear has become a regular resident of the 181st Intelligence Wing since the fall of 2016; however, this creature holds no resemblance to the 600 pound mountain-dwelling mammal. This black, brown and white furry friend is a rescue dog, named Bear, from Adopt Me! Bluegrass Pet Rescue has joined the 181st IW Racer team as the wing’s very first therapy dog.

    As part of the Pet Assisted Warrior Support program, Bear has been trained with the purpose of improving a warrior’s coping and resiliency, boost morale, build connections, and mitigate psychological health concerns and suicidal ideation. He is stationed at Hulman Field to support the daily operations of all units.

    “Having a therapy dog is not an original idea of mine,” said Mary E. Walker, the 181st IW’s Director of Psychological Health, and Bear’s owner. “There have been a few other DPHs at other Air National Guard wings that have started this process.”

    The PAWS program was started to protect and rehabilitate veterans from the daily impacts of combat operations. This program has been proven to provide emotional and mental relief to those in such environments.

    According to Joint Base Langley-Eustis’ Occupational Health Study and Assessment survey, there is significant statistical evidence validating the positive impact a therapy dog can have on a military work place. Bear’s job is to bring a positive feeling to a stressful work place. Bear is available to everyone on base who may need something to brighten their day.

    “I really want him to be adaptable with a lot of different people,” said Walker. “This is a full-time operation, but even the folks that are here on the weekends, it’s really stressful transitioning from your civilian job, coming here, not having a day off and mentally preparing to come to drill. Or carrying problems from home, maybe something happening there, or it’s just difficult logistically. So there is a benefit even for drill status guardsmen.”

    As one of only a few therapy dogs in the Air Force, Bear’s abilities go beyond maintaining positive morale when needed.

    “Bear goes for runs. He likes to run and he will run very well with you. A lot of people have trouble getting started with PT, Bear could be the motivation somebody needs to get up and go,” said Walker. “When people have downtime, they might not go outside, but he can get them to go outside. If he’s there and he needs to go to the bathroom they will be like ‘Hey let’s take Bear outside.’ They can get some sunlight and they can get some activity.”

    Apart from providing support at the 181st, Bear is also an asset to community programs associated with mental illnesses, addictions and recovery houses because of his specialized training, said Walker.

    As part of his training, this 2-year-old pooch completed a six week program of 24/7 training at Luther Locket Correctional Facility in La Grange, Kentucky, called Paws Behind Bars. While being taught a variety of different skills, Bear’s training differed from that of service dogs.

    “Service dogs are dedicated to a specific task and therapy dogs are for calming and relaxing those who may be suffering from PTSD or anxiety conditions,” said Maj. John Shepherd, a Public Health Officer with the 181st Medical Group. Shepherd works is a veterinarian in his civilian career, and acts as Bear’s medical care provider to ensure he remains healthy.

    As an active member of the 181st IW, Bear is now at the head of a new and growing program.

    The program has the potential to garner support within each unit as well as the community and grow to a larger size, said Shepherd.

    With his current skills and potential, Bear has begun what could be a very long and beneficial career as a therapy dog that brings joy to the Airmen of the 181st IW and ensures everyone here remains ‘Racer Ready.’



    Date Taken: 06.06.2017
    Date Posted: 06.06.2017 09:38
    Story ID: 236490
    Location: TERRE HAUTE, IN, US 

    Web Views: 194
    Downloads: 0