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Amos The Therapy Dog

August 6, 2020

With COVID-19 still affecting the world, Sailors have been more restricted in an effort to maintain control of the virus and keep Sailors safe. With new accession students attached to Information Warfare Training Command (IWTC) Corry Station, that has meant less socializing, with restrictions to fitness, spiritual services and liberty onboard Naval Air Station Pensacola Corry Station, Pensacola, Florida.

However, there are still ways that Sailors can receive in-person counseling with a chaplain. In these unique times of anxiety, loneliness and stress, the chaplains at Corry Station have incorporated a therapy dog in training to help the student population.

Animal-assisted therapy is a therapeutic intervention that incorporates animals, such as horses, dogs, cats, pigs, and birds, into the treatment plan. It is used to enhance and complement the benefits of traditional therapy. The chaplains’ therapy dog is a Labradoodle named Amos.

While under these restrictions, it is more likely for Sailors to become more reclusive and suffer from things such as loneliness, depression, anxiety and even suicidal thoughts. Studies have shown that social interaction, and counseling is a good way to combat these things, offered U.S. Navy Chaplain Cmdr. John Ismach-Eastman.

“I think with everything going on, with all the services and other ways to cope with stress limited due to COVID-19; Amos is a wonderful option for healing,” said Ismach-Eastman. Although we offer in-person counseling, there is a major trend for most counseling to be virtual. While that option can certainly help, it only helps to an extent, especially since we were designed as social beings. The chaplains know all too well that touching screens more than hearts plays a detrimental toll on our mental and spiritual health. Amos meanwhile can offer something we can’t–namely a physical touch, a hug and the love and affection therapy dogs are known for.”

For some students onboard Corry Station, Amos has already contributed to their well-being. Information Systems Technician Seaman Apprentice Kyara West is one of those Sailors.

“It was nice and helpful being with Amos,” said West. “I have a lot of anxiety talking to people, especially people I don’t know that well. It was definitely calming to be with him while I was in the chapel; just being able to pet Amos and have him around helps me focus. The dog is so loving and being able to feel that helps me be more comfortable.”

No doubt, aside from being an alternative form of therapy, Amos does indeed provide a much needed social interaction benefit. Sailors and other military members can see him and interact with him, having a companion to be around them which is a limited availability among COVID-19 safety procedures. Amos also helps these Sailors in training, and he is learning to pick up on saddened or depressed service members while providing them with the companionship they may need.

West, having a background with dogs already, said that animals have always been a good stress relief for her, and military members can benefit greatly from the use of therapy animals. She hopes that Amos being onboard Corry Station leads to more opportunities to utilize him and that it leads to more awareness of getting help for service members.

“I think therapy animals are something Sailors and other military members would greatly benefit from being around,” added West. “Animals in general are already great, but having these animals that are specifically trained to notice when someone is down, or might just need some extra love, is super helpful. Maybe what we’re doing here will lead to more things, like forming a club, or getting other bases to start doing the same thing.”

Amos is available by appointment, and service members do not have to be referred. Contact the Chapel at (850) 452-6376 for counseling or a therapy session with Amos.

IWTC Corry Station is a part of the Center for Information Warfare Training (CIWT). With four schoolhouse commands, a detachment, and training sites throughout the United States and Japan, CIWT trains over 20,000 students every year, delivering trained information warfare professionals to the Navy and joint services. CIWT also offers more than 200 courses for cryptologic technicians, intelligence specialists, information systems technicians, electronics technicians, and officers in the information warfare community.

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