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Reaching Down and Finding Humanity

Military Personnel’s Experiences of Adopting Dogs While on Deployment

In: Society & Animals
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It is conservatively estimated that 12% of all American soldiers who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan fields of engagement have returned home with psychological problems. Research that investigates the psychological underpinnings of these problems is pertinent to meeting the mental health needs of serving and returned soldiers. This study was used to investigate the psychological needs of combat soldiers who adopted strays dog while on deployment, and the impact that ending that bonded relationship had on their actions as they neared the end of their deployments. A triangulated three-phase content analysis was conducted to study the narratives of 22 dog adopting soldiers whose experiences were reported in the popular media, the comments of 24 journalists reporting these stories, and 83 social media responses to the journalists’ reports. The soldiers’ dog adopting-related behaviors reflected needs for nurturance, normalcy, recognition, esteem, and control during the periods of their deployments.

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