Therapy Dogs Help Children Of Military Families - New York News

Therapy Dogs Help Children Of Military Families

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Parker McInerney is having a blast during his first time at summer sleep-away camp. The 11-year-old has learned to use a compass, perfected his aim and met a lot of kids like him. All the children at his Operation Purple summer camp have parents that are deployed.

Parker's dad has been in Kabul since February.

"We just get along really good because we share the same feelings," Parker says about his camp companions.

However, Parker didn't expect to make four legged friends at the camp too. And that's been a nice surprise.

"They're also just fun to be around," he says.

Rugby, the Irish Water Spaniel, and Susy Q., the German Shepherd, are therapy dogs who've offered calm, comfort and companionship at a variety of disaster zones.

But this week, they're canine campers at a camp for military children.

Therapy dogs like Rugby have a long history with the military, dating back to WWII when they helped injured soldiers. Sending these dogs to summer camp with military children is fairly new, but experts say that there are tons of benefits.

"Therapy dogs have been shown to reduce anxiety, decrease depression and increase self-esteem and confidence," says Amy McCullough of the American Humane Institute.

This is the second year that therapy dogs have been part of Camp Sandy Cove and they're now involved with all 14 Operation Purple summer camps around the country. The dogs get lots of lovin' themselves, but they're working here too.

"So at the summer camps we see therapy dogs distract kids from their worries, help with homesickness and provide conversation starters to make new friends," says McCullough.

"It makes me feel better. If I'm upset, those dogs are right next to me and I get to pet them and it makes me feel better," Jamaica Jones, an eleven year old, says.

Parker says camp has been a great experience and something he can't wait to tell his dad about.

"It's a good place to be to forget about all your worries at home and let go and have fun," he says. "I had the best time of my life."

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