Veterans Receive Exotic Animal Therapy At Wild Things
Posted: Dec 07, 2011 6:13 PM PST Updated: Dec 07, 2011 7:30 PM PST
By Susanne Brunner – email
MONTEREY COUNTY, Calif. – War veterans are getting unusual rehabilitation, not from doctors but from animals. In a first of its kind program, Wild Things in Monterey County is helping veterans heal from their emotional wounds caused by war.
“Sometimes I have problems with the way people perceive me, but when I came up upon these animals, it’s kind of healing,” explained Dave Riley, military veteran.
Dave Riley never would’ve thought he’d see the day his life would turn around, but with the help of elephants, that day is here. He spent 17 years serving our country in the Army and Coast Guard, but lost his arms and legs to a bacterial infection in 1997.
“It was tough for awhile. It’s been a real awakening for me. I was led down a path being on pain meds for awhile and now I’m off and it’s almost like a different life now,” said Riley.
People could tell it was different for Dave just by looking at how relaxed he was, soaking in every minute with the friendly elephants. Wild Things owner Charlie Sammut took pictures to prove to the world this sort of animal therapy works. This is the first week of the program at Wild Things and so far, elephants have proven to be a very important role in the therapy process.
“We’re letting them see how those animals handle those stresses, those pressures and those issues,” said Charlie Sammut, Wild Things Owner.
It may sound a bit odd, but seeing how wild animals respond to stress gives veterans a better understanding of how to deal with stress. It’s not only elephants, but kangaroos and monkeys too. The idea came from Justin Bond, a veteran who lost his leg in Iraq in 2004.
“I just got tired of checking out of life myself,” said Justin Bond, Military Veteran. “Once I realized I helped the first veteran and I realized hey I have something to wake up for.”
Bond hopes the new program at Wild Things can expand to help veterans across the country.