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Gina was a playful 2-year-old German shepherd when she went to Iraq as a highly trained bomb-sniffing dog with the military, conducting door-to-door searches and witnessing all sorts of noisy explosions.

She returned home to Colorado cowering and fearful. When her handlers tried to take her into a building, she would stiffen her legs and resist. Once inside, she would tuck her tail beneath her body and slink along the floor. She would hide under furniture or in a corner to avoid people.

A military veterinarian diagnosed with her post-traumatic stress disorder — a condition that experts say can afflict dogs just like it does humans.

“She showed all the symptoms and she had all the signs,” said Master Sgt. Eric Haynes, the kennel master at Peterson Air Force Base. “She was terrified of everybody and it was obviously a condition that led her down that road.”

A year later, Gina is on the mend. Frequent walks among friendly people and a gradual reintroduction to the noises of military life have begun to overcome her fears, Haynes said.

Haynes describes her progress as “outstanding.”

“Pretty fabulous, actually,” added Staff Sgt. Melinda Miller, who’s been Gina’s handler since May. “She makes me look pretty good.”
PTSD is well-documented among American servicemen and women returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but its existence in animals is less clear-cut. Some veterinarians say animals do experience it, or a version of it.

“There is a condition in dogs which is almost precisely the same, if not precisely the same, as PTSD in humans,” said Nicholas Dodman, head of the animal behavior program at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine.

But some veterinarians dislike applying the diagnosis to animals, thinking it demeans servicemen and women, Dodman said. He added that he means no offense to military personnel when he uses the term.

Source: Dan Elliott for AP News.

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