Similarity Between the Warrior and the Wolf
The wolf, a coursing predator, has been responsible for keeping the balance in nature for thousands of years. The wolf speaks up for the mouse by making sure that the elk doesn’t rub all the bark off the tree and create a wasteland. The wolf speaks up for the frog by moving the heard from one green lush valley to another so that the stream bed and the waterways can sustain the life of the frog. In these actions, the wolf’s true role is to protect the wilds of North America by maintaining a balance in nature.
The Veteran, much like the wolf, acts like a coursing predator and travels around the globe to protect the indigent, the poor, and the downtrodden by moving them to a safe place. The Veteran, much like the wolf, can kill if necessary to protect the good of the many. Herein lies the similarity. The wolf protects the environment and is ridiculed, the Veteran protects his country and is called a murderer. The Veteran, who travels around the world to protect democracy and our way of life, returns home with scars, physical or otherwise. Both the wolf and the Veteran serve to protect us all. At LARC we believe they should both be given a chance to heal.
There have been studies written on trauma in elephants, trauma in chimps, trauma in Veterans. In all these mammals, trauma manifests itself in similar ways. So we know that a similar trauma suffered by a similar sentient being can often be manifested in exactly the same way. Here at LARC we have seen over the years that a wolf who has suffered a physical or emotional scar selects a Veteran with a similar trauma. We’ve observed that when the wolf and the Veteran walk side-by-side, there is an unspoken, non-verbal communication that blossoms. This human-animal bond often serves as the catalyst in the Veteran’s reintroduction into society.
The community impact of our project is felt throughout society. By offering the Veterans employment and path to recovery, we are healing families, putting our young war heroes back to work, and saving animals from destruction. By aiding a Veteran in recovery, we impact his or her life and the lives of those that come in contact with him or her. Our philosophy is not to band-aid the problem but rather to promote long-term solutions. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) cannot be solved with a pill and does not have a cure; therefore we must empower those suffering from this debilitating illness with the right tools for success. The tools are provided in three stages. The individual with PTSD is supported by a fellow Veteran further along in the program. This “living” example of a support person helps the Veteran through the hard times. In addition to the support person, the Veterans in the program are exposed to wolves, coyotes, foxes, and wolf-dogs to promote an animal-human bond. Our returning combat heroes are often unsure whether they are an infantryman or a husband and many of the rescued animals at our sanctuary (who have also suffered trauma) are unsure whether they are a wild wolf or a domestic wolf-dog. This similarity in trauma and societal misplacement in both species is what helps each one to understand each other and heal. Over the years, staff and clinicians have noticed the unspoken bond between the wolves and the Veterans. Oftentimes, the most traumatized wolf chooses the most traumatized Veteran. This non-verbal cross-species communication is often the catalyst in the Veteran’s recovery.
The “pack” dynamic is a new exploration by our staff at LARC. Most Veterans served in a group (3-5 soldiers), and within that group each Veteran had a role. When one was lost the entire group suffered – so “pack” awareness (or as it is often referred to in modern media, “brotherhood”) was born through military service. We use a pack to heal at LARC, so that when one animal living in an enclosure with 3 other wolves accepts our fallen hero, then the whole pack begins approaching him/her and allows him/her in. This unilateral acceptance often leads to healing and family re-unification for the Veterans enrolled in the “Warriors and Wolves” program.
LARC’s program has been called cutting edge and unique. Through our visionary board we are able to save Veterans, rescue animals, and protect the environment (by using donated food that would have otherwise been sent to a landfill) – all under one roof. At LARC our impact is direct when it comes to the Veterans in our program, but spans a far wider net. Our program impacts, sons, daughters, wives, brother, fathers, sisters, employers, and the community by healing our heroes and getting them back to work, back to their families, and involved in their community.