Veterans Work with Rescued Wolves to Overcome Trauma

Lockwood Animal Rescue Center is saving the lives of veterans and wolves through a unique program that focuses on healing through non-verbal communication, relationship building, and learning to live in the present.

“These guys have made a huge impact in the world abroad, and they can make just as big an impact at home if they’re understood,” Matt Simmons shares.

Video Transcript

(Matt Simmons howls)

Wolves & Warriors. Frazier Park, California.

Matt Simmons: At the Lockwood Animal Rescue Center, we rescue wolves and combat veterans, and we think by coupling two separate species that have the same trauma that this unspoken communication is easier to overcome trauma than spoken.

Lockwood Animal Rescue Center is saving the lives of wolves and veterans. The wolves have been hunted and abused. The veterans have faced suicide, depression, and PTSD.

Matt: One of the things we work at here at LARC is a long, cumbersome, tiresome day, so that when I start asking questions at 6 o’clock in the afternoon, I’m getting direct answers.

I can’t break through with every veteran, but for every veteran that comes here there was a wolf that we rescued, whether it was six months ago, a year ago. They came here for the purpose to save that veteran’s life, and that relationship I can foster. That relationship is unique to that veteran, and that relationship is something they’re going to take with them throughout life.

Slowly, they learn about pack, they learn about family, they learn about support, they learn about patience, they learn about love, all with an animal they can’t convince to do what they want to do. It’s a unique relationship to you, and it’s one that takes patience and diligence, and it’s one on the path of healing that forces you into the moment. You can’t live in the past. You can’t live in the what ifs in the future. You have to be in the moment when you’re in the enclosure with a wolf.

Wolves and veterans are paired together to heal each other’s wounds. Walking side by side, the wolf and veteran form a non-verbal bond. This bond can spark a veteran’s own reintroduction to family and society.

Matt: The worst of depression for myself and many of these veterans ends with a shotgun shell. You have to understand when you were taught that the solution to every problem is a corpse, you tend to take that methodology home and you happen to turn it on yourself.

I think that patience with an animal that doesn’t want to listen is a whole new level of how to understand the world, that the world works at its own pace and you can’t make it magically happen.

I got my chance at redemption through one of the animals at this program. Ever since that chance to forgive and forget and to move forward with my life, I’ve always tried to pay it forward, and I pay it forward with each animal we rescue and each veteran we bring here, hoping that they’re going to reach out to their family and make a difference, hoping that their impact in the community will be felt long after I’m gone.

This is one of the only animal therapy programs I can think of that actually saves human lives, and lives that need to be saved, guys that have made huge impacts in the world abroad and can make just as big an impact home if they’re understood.

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