Animal Doctor Articles Weekly on November 18, 2013

Question

This question may not be appropriate for your column, but you have been so helpful advising about how to cope with the loss of a family pet, I thought I''d ask.

I wanted my husband, a Korean War veteran, buried at Arlington National Cemetery with the ashes of his beloved German shepherd, Samantha. Two of her littermates served in combat. She did not serve in any war, but she served after by helping my husband better than anyone or anything else deal with his post-traumatic stress disorder. She helped him through his depression, anxiety and panic attacks, and helped him get exercise and a good night''s sleep. Even if she was not a serving military dog, it distresses me that the military authorities won''t even allow me to scatter Samantha''s ashes over my husband''s grave. What should I do?

Nov 18, 2013

Answer

I greatly sympathize with your concerns over the insensitive rules of military officialdom that make no sense unless one believes that dogs and other beloved animals have no significant place in our lives or death.

Yet the ritual of co-burial goes back in different civilizations for millennia. It is an indicator of deep respect and affection for the remains and memories of particular animals whose lives the deceased had shared.

While the U.S. military has used all kinds of species in various wars and military insurgencies for centuries, it is telling that there is no national monument for such service animals in our nation''s capital. There is such a memorial in the heart of London, close to a major war memorial to fallen soldiers.

The U.S. military has a dubious record when it comes to facilitating the transport home of local dogs from war zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan. These animals are often adopted as camp mascots and serve as camp guards. Most importantly, they give emotional support to troops.

It will take an act of Congress to get these burial rules changed. It''s a shame that reflects the even greater shame of a dysfunctional government and authorities who have no feeling or respect for the close bond that so many citizens enjoy with their animal companions.

As for today''s soldiers suffering from PTSD, many become heroin addicts or suicidal after being prescribed analgesic drugs such as hydrocodone and hydromorphone rather than having a good dog co-therapist.

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