CAMP ATTEBURY, IN (WXIN/CNN) – A group of "Welcome Home" dogs is helping troops ease their stress after an overseas tour of duty in Kuwait.
"Within 10 minutes of the dogs being there, they're relaxed," said dog trainer Kristi Rush. "They're smiling again, they're talking to everybody, and they're playing with the dogs."
The troops are returning from overseas, but not quite home yet. The soldiers from the Illinois National Guard will spend the next few days at Camp Attebury getting processed and debriefed.
It's a huge transition from their service in Kuwait, but one that's about to become easier thanks to women visitors and their dogs waiting outside.
"The dogs just give them something to do and something else to think about while they're waiting," Rush said.
Attebury is one of two bases in the country that uses specially trained dogs like the "Welcome Home" dogs to ease the stress of returning veterans.
The dogs and their volunteer handlers go through more than a year of training to become pet therapy certified. They provide a sense of normalcy for soldiers who have often served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Most of these soldiers are missing their family, their dogs, and with this long process, it's kind of nice to have this break in between, something different," said Lt. Jesse Sherman.
These soldiers are anxious to return home, the process they are going through can seem tedious but the dogs provide a welcome distraction and a first taste of home.
The handlers know they have given back and provided a welcome home that only a best friend can provide.
"We enjoy what we do, we enjoy watching our dogs with the soldiers and seeing that it can help them," Rush said.
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