Therapy dogs helping Ukrainian children overcome the trauma of war


    Bernese mountain dog Doxa works with displaced youngsters in the conflict-ravaged country, helping to bring them comfort from PTSD from the events they have experienced since Russia invaded six months ago.

    Barbara Körozsi is a therapy dog trainer in Berehove, Ukraine, near the Hungarian border. She started bringing her therapy dog Doxa to work with children at a shelter for internally displaced people in Berehove run by ACT member Hungarian Interchurch Aid.

    Sessions with the dog can help motivate children, build self confidence and teach them to trust again.

    They play games, desensitise the children to sound through barking, and cuddle to help them cope. It releases oxytocin in the body, which is a hormone that encourages bonding.

    Ms Körozsi said: “Playing with the dog it is also easier for them to talk about feelings, formulate memories and desires, projecting them onto the dog.

    “Doxa can keep secrets, doesn’t judge, doesn’t deceive and doesn’t take advantage. Doxa simply loves – and the kids love her back.”

    Five-year-old Daniil, from Mikolayiv, is among the children that Doxa has been helping.

    He said: “I love Doxa so much. She is so big and clever. What I like the most about her is that when I tell her to give paw, and she really does.

    “I can’t wait to see her again. I love all animals, but I especially miss my kitten Simba. She is a brown cat, and now has to live with my grandmother in Mikolayiv together with her other cats.

    Viktoria, 5, also from Mikolayiv, said: When Doxa comes to visit us, that is a very good day for me. I always look forward to it. Her fur is super soft, I like to pet her. Her owner even lets us lay our heads on her.

    “Doxa is a smart, good dog, she allows us to cuddle too. I have a bunny, Businka (Pearl), who travelled with us in his cage, and lives with us in the shelter. Sometimes I bring him apples from the canteen – he loves them.”

    The country was invaded by Russia six months ago, and the conflict saw an estimated 8 million people have been displaced within Ukraine by May.


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