The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

May 8, 2014

Therapy dog helps troops deal with postwar stress

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP) — After three deployments to Iraq and three to Afghanistan, Staff Sgt. Dennis Swols is agitated, prone to bouts of anger and unable to really talk about his time on the battlefield.

But as Swols sits in a small office in the Robinson Health Clinic at Fort Bragg, his hand drops to the furry head beside him and his mood brightens. Settled at his feet, Lexy, a 5-year-old German shepherd, gives Swols a few moments of distraction.

It's her job. And, according to Swols, she's good at it.

"I have a hard time talking to people about my deployments and everything," says Swols, who is with the 82nd Airborne's 4th Brigade Combat Team. After taking part in the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and the march into Baghdad in 2003, he's been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress. "But having her here, I just pet Lexy. Or I'm just sitting here and we won't talk about deployments, we'll just (talk) about the dog. ... My day is better every time I come in."

For 82nd Airborne psychiatrist Maj. Christine Rumayor, Lexy is a partner, a conversation starter and a living, breathing medical tool that can calm a patient and make a therapy appointment a little more enjoyable.

A slowly evolving form of treatment, animal therapy is used in only a few other Army installations, including Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. A small number of dogs like Lexy are being used almost as co-therapists. Others routinely work as service animals and are often used for animal-assisted therapy, including in visits to patients in the hospitals.

Lexy's move into therapy was unexpected. Rumayor decided to put her new puppy through the training when she realized Lexy was less of a guard dog and more of a calm cuddler. So, Lexy went through about 2½ years of training before she was able to pin on her rank — she's a lieutenant colonel — and become certified as Fort Bragg's only therapy dog.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
State, national news
  • ND deputy hurt in scuffle Suspect charged with assaulting, trying to disarm law officer

    July 28, 2014

  • Fergus Falls plans deer hunt Hunters are selected by a lottery, pay $20 fee

    July 28, 2014

  • Man killed in home invasion Homeowner's son in Ray, Minn., fires fatal shot

    July 28, 2014

  • Charges filed in July 8 fatal Dodge Center woman criminally charged in fatal car crash

    July 28, 2014

  • American doctor in Africa gets treatment for Ebola BOONE, N.C. (AP) — An American doctor infected with the deadly Ebola disease received intensive treatment Sunday in West Africa and was in stable condition, talking to his medical team and working on his computer, a spokeswoman for an aid group said.

    July 27, 2014

  • Salmonella Outbreak Trial [Duplicate] Trial in salmonella outbreak to start in Georgia ATLANTA (AP) — Three people accused of scheming to manufacture and ship salmonella-tainted peanuts that killed nine people, sickened more than 700 and prompted one of the largest food recalls in history are set to go to trial this week in south Georg

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pitfalls emerge in health insurance renewals WASHINGTON — For the 8 million people who persevered through all the technical travails in the new health insurance exchanges and managed to sign up for coverage in 2014, their policies will probably automatically renew come November when open enroll

    July 27, 2014

  • Hamas agrees to 24-hour holiday truce in Gaza war GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Hamas on Sunday agreed to observe a 24-hour truce in Gaza after initially rejecting a similar Israeli offer, as fighting resumed and the two sides wrangled over the terms of a lull that international diplomats had hoped c

    July 27, 2014

  • Solar car race to end at University of Minnesota MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A cross-country solar car race is set to finish at the University of Minnesota on Monday. About 10 solar cars from colleges around the world are competing in the eight-day, 1,700-mile American Solar Challenge. The race began July

    July 27, 2014

  • Dozens of oil trains pass through Minnesota weekly Railroad documents released by the state Department of Public Safety show about 50 trains carrying crude oil from North Dakota are passing through Minnesota each week.

    July 26, 2014