Comfort Dogs Are Changing Lives of Ugandan War Survivors
After 25 years of war that ravaged their country, citizens of Northern Uganda are left struggling to overcome traumas the conflict caused. Now, they have found unlikely allies that are helping them heal–rescue dogs.
The war between the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the Ugandan government didn’t just lead to the collapse of the national economy and stumped the country’s progress. It ruined countless lives. Over two decades, Ugandans have suffered through unimaginable tragedies that left many scars, most of which can’t be seen with a naked eye.
It is estimated that 7 out of 10 Ugandans have some form of the post-traumatic syndrome. Suicide and substance abuse rates are skyrocketing, and the much-needed help for the survivors of the war is still missing.
That is, until The Comfort Dog Project came to be. The people behind the organization recognized the profound effect canines have on people, particularly those affected by trauma, which led to creating a program that promotes the human-animal bond as a therapeutic aid to war trauma survivors.
Dog owners all over the world know that four-legged companions have the power to transform lives. For decades, therapy and service dogs provide invaluable help in assisting people with disabilities lead wholesome lives. Unfortunately, in Uganda, dogs don’t enjoy the same status they do in the Western world. Here, canines are to be distrusted, as they’re most often used as guard animals rather than pets, which is why The Comfort Dog Project is quite unconventional for the region.
The program rehabilitates stray dogs, spays and neuters them, and place them with one of the war survivors that were selected for participation in the project. The guardians commit to caring for their canine companions throughout their life, and receive free weekly training sessions that educate on the importance positive reinforcement techniques.
In the two years that the project is running, it has already made significant advances. The stray dogs they were able to rehabilitate got a second chance at a happy life and now help their human companions get the same opportunity. Each team that graduated from the program pays it forward, as well, as they visit schools and villages across the country, educating their fellow men on the importance of being kind to animals and serving as an example of how it looks when that kindness is repaid.
No one can deny that the road to healing is a long one, but it seems that Ugandans and their canines are heading in the right way.
To find out more about the project and hear moving stories of people whose lives it changed, visit The Comfort Dog Project Facebook page. If you want to support the project with a donation, you can do so here.