Colorado researcher hopes to change the face of veteran care with service dogs

DENVER - A Colorado researcher is looking at how important man's best friend is to veterans returning home from duty.

Sgt. Angela Miller joined the Army National Guard at only 17-years-old, but now, 20 years later, she says memories of war are never far away.

"I have nightmares," said Miller.

The Colorado native was deployed to Iraq in 2003 and says it never occurred to her what 14 months overseas working as a medic would do to her mental health. Two service dogs named Bonnie and Clyde helped Sgt. Miller manage her PTSD.

"[Bonnie] will do what's called pressure therapy and she actually gets completely in my lap," said Miller.

Dr. Cheryl Krause-Parello is a researcher at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus who founded Canines Providing Assistance to Wounded Warriors

"There are invisible wounds of war that we can't see," said Parello.

Inspired by her husband, a Marine Corps veteran, Parello launched a study gathering data from veterans and their dogs. She hopes the results will change the face of veteran care and public policy.

"Really getting a real-life, in-depth feel of what they go through on a daily basis and what the service dogs mean to them," said Parello.

A fully-trained service dog can cost up to $30,000 each and veterans are waiting years for a service dog of their own.

"Twenty-two vets a day are dying by suicide," said Parello. "They can't wait two years for a service dog."

Parello hopes to gather enough evidence, so that one day service dogs will be covered as a reimbursable medical expense.

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