Vet’s Best Friend
by Jim Bisco
This was originally published in the UB School of Social Work magazine Mosaics, Spring 2015 issue
Research investigates effect shelter dog rehabilitation has on combat veterans
Those normally part of the bustling traffic of the UB Student Union were halted in their hurried tracks during a lunchtime last year by the presence of two shelter dogs at an exhibit table. They were, in a sense, manning an exhibit for an organization called Dog Tags Niagara with their human companions who were military veterans.
Jacob Silver, a junior in biomedical sciences, was among those who paused. A Marine Corps veteran himself carrying on his education after two tours in Afghanistan, he struck up a conversation with Mike, an Iraq war veteran dealing with transition and adjustment to civilian life, who proceeded to explain how Dog Tags turned his life around, and how it’s doing the same for fellow vets experiencing the after-effects of combat. The dogs looked as though they wanted to extol the benefits of the program as well.
Thinking the mission of Dog Tags Niagara would make for a highly relevant research project, the pre-med student began to send emails out to various UB departments, eventually grabbing the attention of SSW Research Professor Thomas Nochajski.