Warriors & Wolves

SoCal Wolf Rehab Program Gives Vets “Space to Figure Things Out”

“They just don’t fit in society, much like the veterans coming home.” – John Muir

Wolves and wolf-dogs rescued from around the country are rehabilitated along with U.S. veterans recovering from the traumas of war in the Southern California Warriors and Wolves program. Whit Johnson has the Life Connected report for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Sunday, May 24, 2015. (Published Monday, May 25, 2015).

Veterans often return from combat not certain of their role in society. This is no less valid for the most recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan where – for the first time in US history – our men and women in the Armed Forces were seeing upwards of five tours to the Middle East. One reason for this is that – also for the first time – veterans have been facing the highest unemployment rates ever seen.

Our combat veterans are returning with an extraordinary incidence of posttraumatic stress disorders, complex stress disorders, and traumatic brain injuries. Often this impedes their ability to find work. But at the Lockwood Animal Rescue Center’s (LARC) Warrior and Wolves program we understand veteran needs and we are flexible with their schedules so that they don’t miss their medical appointments, physical therapy, and mental health sessions. In addition, because we run a program that requires the veteran to maintain his or her sobriety we regularly do drug testing and offer peer-to-peer counseling and fellowship meetings regularly.

One thing we hear often is: “I’m not sure if I’m a husband or a warrior, if I should look for work in just go back to the military. I’m not sure where I belong.” One of the unique healing mechanisms of the Warriors and Wolves program at LARC is that the animals are experiencing a similar dilemma – they “get” each other. All of the wolves were once pets relinquished because their “owners” could not maintain them in a home setting. These animals are not sure if they are wild creatures or house pets. They want to be with humans but they are not dogs and they do not want to be told what to do. Our veterans make a connection with them not only because they relate to each other due to this “personality split” but also because it gives the veteran another chance to save a living being – many of these animals would have been destroyed if they hadn’t been rescued by our vets. In this therapeutic work environment, the veterans and the wolves help heal each other to heal.

The Warriors and Wolves program has seen many veterans transitioning back to society after gaining the confidence and job skills they need to secure full-time employment at veterinary hospitals, humane societies, and boarding facilities. Many have reunited with their families and have become husbands and fathers again.

Co-founders of the program, psychologist Lorin Lindner, PhD and her combat veteran husband Matthew Simmons, hire as many veterans as they can afford to hire. Grants have been provided by the Disabled American Veterans Charitable Services Trust and the Mary Jo and Hank Greenberg Animal Welfare Foundation but with more funds more veterans can have a chance in this unusual blending of mutually healing.