What is it about puppies? Children go crazy for them. Women melt. Men nod approvingly. They make the old feel young again. And wounded warriors regain a new spark for life. Was it any wonder that Navy SEAL and lone survivor of an ambush in Afghanistan, Marcus Latrell got a cute yellow Lab pup to help deal with his traumas?

Who would have thought that far from fighting the enemy, it would be his own countrymen who would inflict the worst crime—Four hoods killed his puppy with a .357 magnum at close range. Now there’s enough in the news about these jerks (one the Texas Rangers arrested actually threatened to kill Latrell and his mother—I’m thinkin’ yeah, try, please try it so Latrell can legally remove a rabid beast from society), but this column isn’t about revenge. It’s about how you can use the love of a puppy to help in the healing of your PTSR.

I’ll go into the hows and whys, and the beauty of it is that you need not know this for the connection of a puppy to do its magic. I will share with you the secrets about getting a puppy, and that’s important. First, you don’t pick the pup. It picks you.

When I was in Alaska, with the expressed objective of healing from the prior four years in the last tropical war of the Cold War [Fighting Memories], my friend and neighbor, Vinnie called me over and said which one do you want? In his yard were the most beautiful grizzly bear cub-looking Chesapeake Bay retriever pups I’d ever seen. Coming up to the pen, one of the little tikes ambled over to me and sniffed my hand. I picked him up, looked into blue eyes and said, “That’s him!”

A few weeks later, when they were weaned I put him in the pocket of my parka, and walked home. For the next nine years, before a pneumonia-like affliction forced me to put him down, we were inseparable. I named him Matahan Seochael, Scottish for Peaceful Bear, and trained him in one of my ancestral languages I was hoping to learn: Scots-Gaelic.

That we had our own little language tie made the experience that much more binding, though it wasn’t really necessary in the receiving and sharing the love that would reinforce and calm me when the memories of war creeped into my life.

See, the power of puppy love is in the subconscious manner in which it works. Consciously, there are a number of requirements we have to comply with: feeding, touching, playing, training, and connecting. These are skills and qualities that we received as children from our parents and Buy Valium throughout early childhood.

What about cats and kittens? Well, kittens yes, but kittens turn into cats and then there’s an immediate separation. Dogs on the other hand have such an ancient connection to us that goes back to a bond through hunting that requires such a deep connection of communication, so immediate and subconscious, that being taken care of like a child never really leaves the relationship the way it does with cats. And while a cat can move away and really only rely on you for food, dogs are pack animals and need that physical interaction that tells them what part of the pack hierarchy they are. These are provided through petting, grooming, feeding, and commands taught and given.

This forces the owner to be the following: nurturer, leader, trusting, provider and extremely interactive while regaining healthy boundaries. Compare this with someone dealing with the worst symptoms of PTSR: withdrawn, suspicious, overly rigid or inneffective boundaries, subconsciously wanting to be taken care of yet having a strong avoidance of intimacy and touch.

The puppy calls upon the repressed, deep inner-child response to nurture those who are weaker and smaller. As the relationship continues, and the variety of activities increase, housetraining, fetch training, and especially to hunting (a more advanced tool of healing that I’ll talk about in a later column and previously commented on by me in Moose Hunt, Healing Hunt in Dr. James A Swan’s compilation: The Sacred Art of Hunting), it’s an organic reaction that draws out a healing.

Now, you might be asking, will a pup from a shelter work?  Yes: a puppy’s youth and growth curve parallels a similar growth curve of a healthy, non-over reactive, maturing of the ego in one dealing with the symptoms of PTSR. What’s important is not where the dog came from, within reason, but that it’s a puppy.

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The Zigmeister

A puppy’s youth takes the one confronted with PTSR back to their childhood, and it does so in a away that forces you to care and connect with your pup in a “NOW” state. It puts you in the moment, and as you’ll see in future installments, the dastardly effects of PTSR occur when you’re not in the now, but putting your attention too much into the future or more likely leaving yourself all the way in the past, lost in the subconscious’s efforts to correct the should, coulda, wouldas…

More on puppies in a future column. I hope this one gets you thinking of the powerful effectiveness of puppies in dealing with the post-traumatic stress response. And here’s a photo of my latest family addition for your enjoyment: A Brittany I’ve named Ziggy!