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K-9 PTSD? Some Vets Say Dogs Stressed By War, Too

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Gina, a highly trained bomb-sniffing dog with the U.S. military and Staff Sgt. Chris Kench on a sofa at the kennel at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs.

By Dan Elliott for Alternative Press

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (AP) – 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 her with post-traumatic stress disorder – a condition that some 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.

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