Dogs have long been hailed as man's best friend, but it seems like that old adage may be truer than we thought, as dogs are increasingly helped ex-soldiers tackle post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
As well as providing a calming presence in therapy groups, dogs can help steady people on the verge on anxiety attacks, and offer vital supportive companionship. Both within the UK and across the pond in the US, organisations have been set up specifically to give veterans access to dogs who can help them cope with the traumas they have faced and move forward with their lives.
Among the organisations in the UK is Veterans With Dogs, which is the country's first non-profit organisation dedicated to training dogs to help ex-servicemen and women regain their independence following PTSD and other traumas.
It was set up by former marine Craig MacLellan, whose dogs have helped him bring his PTSD under control. Speaking to Channel 4 News, Craig described the breakdown he suffered after his years in the armed forces, which left him with depression, panic attacks and agoraphobia.
His discovery of the potentially therapeutic powers of dogs came during a six-week course at Combat Stress, which he was allowed to bring his dog Fudge to. During therapy sessions, he noticed she would sit with the most distressed person - and it wasn't long before she was asked to more sessions.
Craig set up Veterans With Dogs in 2012 in the hope that dogs can have a similarly transformative effects on others suffering with mental health issues following combat.
In the USA, a similar scheme called This Able Veteran is in place. This programme combines psychological treatment with service dogs to help improve the lives of ex-servicemen and women.
When speaking to Channel 4 News, Craig stressed the importance of other therapies, noting that dogs provide a key component of recovery alongside other treatments.
Written by: Hannah