More Than just Therapy

Canines Offer Therapy to the Wounded

FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas – Sweetheart, Jackson and Ellie Mae, three four-legged pooches, are helping to change the lives of wounded warriors and injured Soldiers at Brooke Army Medical Center.

The mixed beagle, German shepherd and Lhasa Apso are therapy dogs trained to console Soldiers, Family Members and sometimes medical staff with reassuring hugs and occasionally dog kisses.

“There’s a bond between humans and animals,” explained dog trainer, Charlie Brugnola of Silver Lakes, Calif. “Pets help us to deal with stress and put us in a mood that is beneficial to us.”

Mr. Brugnola and his wife, Sally, brought the dogs to the hospital last month as part of the Delta Society of San Antonio Chapter Therapy Dog Program at BAMC.

“In the eyes of the wounded warriors we see a light, a light of determination and tenacity. That light glows when making contact with the eyes of Sweetheart,” Mr. Brugnola said. “She looks deep into their eyes, conveying a message. A message only she and the Soldier truly comprehend. And therein lies the magic; the wonderment and the connection these animals give to humans; the ability to bond and heal in very profound ways – beyond human ability.”

Read the rest here.

(h/t to A Soldier’s Mind)

 And it’s not only dogs:

Equine Therapy Helps Veterans Heal

Marge Tautkus Gunnar believes her therapy horses have a healing power that could help wounded veterans.

So she turned to Tammy Duckworth, director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, a veteran who lost both legs after her helicopter was shot down in Iraq.

With a $100,000 grant from the state, Gunnar is poised to offer programs next month at the sprawling BraveHearts Therapeutic Riding & Educational Center in McHenry County for veterans, particularly those whose limbs have been amputated or who are paraplegic.

The grant will help the center, near Harvard, expand its indoor arena and provide funds to support its programs, which will be free to veterans.

Read the rest here. And another wonderful article about this program:

On to practical maneuvers :

Gregory Rodriguez wanted to serve his country in Iraq or Afghanistan, but a devastating car crash left the Marine with brain injuries that have affected his speech and ability to walk. Though Rodriguez wasn’t injured in battle, he recently found himself engaged in a therapy that offers promise for helping wounded soldiers, said officials with BraveHearts Therapeutic Riding & Educational Center. During a visit to the center’s farm in Harvard, Rodriguez, 23, reached up from his wheelchair and brushed the flank of Tali, a gentle 7-year-old mare. His eyes gleamed when therapists hoisted him into the saddle. ‘When I was a little kid, 4-years-old, I was living in Mexico for a while and I got on a horse,’ said Rodriguez, who lives in Stickney. ‘And that was the last time I was on a horse.’ BraveHearts founder and executive director Marge Gunnar hopes the program can serve veterans injured in battle and those debilitated by illness or other injuries….

Continue reading

and ~

Horses may help injured GIs walk again 

Charles Dharapak / APArmy Sgt. Christian Valle, 23, from Hayward, Calif., who lost both his legs in Iraq, trots on a white Percheron horse, with the help of members of the 3rd Infantry Regiment (Old Guard), at the Caisson Stables at Fort Myer in Arlington, Va., on Friday.ARLINGTON, Va.

June 3, 2006 – Spec. Maxwell Ramsey made small kissing sounds as he tried to coax Wylie, a muscular black Percheron horse, over to the platform where the soldier stood. He swung the metal and plastic limb that is his new left leg over Wylie’s back and sat down in the saddle.

“Relax your leg. Take a deep breath. Remember you are sitting on a big old cushion,” Mary Jo Beckman, a therapeutic riding instructor, said to Ramsey as he and Wylie headed out into a dusty yard at Fort Myer….

Continue reading


Charles Dharapak / AP

Army Specialist Maxwell Ramsey, 36, of Hilton Head, S.C., who lost his leg from a 155mm Iraqi artillery round in Ramadi, rides Wiley, a Percheron horse, at the Caisson Stables, 3rd Infantry Regiment (Old Guard), at Fort Myer in Arlington, Va., on Friday.

“When I get up on the horse, I feel like I have two legs. I don’t think about the injury,” McKinnon said. “I feel that I can do what I normally do. I think good thoughts, like I’m free.” 

Int’l Fund For Horses

Beer For My Horses


July 8, 2007. Good news, Troop Support.


  1. Tom replied:

    Good stuff! It’s good to know that so many good people are supporting the men and women in uniform! And yes, the video is tremendous! Cheers! 😀

  2. didyouseethis replied:

    Great video Yankeemom…gives that song a whole new meaning! 🙂

  3. cavmom replied:

    Beautiful post!

  4. yankeemom2 replied:

    I was all tear-eyed while reading the articles. Having spent a good amount of my life around horses and dogs (and kitties), I know the magic they hold. My Morgan, Ethan, kept me as sane as possible through a very dark time in my life and other horses and dogs I’ve met along the way have never failed to offer up a lot of unconditional love.
    My little anglo-arab LOVED beer! lol

  5. Tom replied:

    That’s so true, Yankeemom! God bless you!

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