Against the backdrop of the difficult images that we have all come across in the last few weeks, images that tear everyone apart, there is one project that succeeds, if only a little, in bringing out a smile in these difficult times.
It’s called “Dogs on Order 8”, and it includes quite a few Labrador dogs (not only) that were trained to be used as guide dogs, therapy dogs and service dogs, but also ones that are just sociable and cute.
Order 8 is the official order by the IDF calling in reservists to serve. The order was sent out, for example, to hundreds of thousands of reservists immediately after October 7. Now, there are dogs on their own frontlines, too.
The person responsible for this important project that strengthens the wounded, medical teams, families of victims and even families whose loved ones were kidnapped on that horrible Saturday, is Meitar Sela, a 33-year-old woman, a fighter herself who is treated by a service dog.
“I myself am a war veteran, a battle survivor from Operation Protective Edge who is helped by a service dog called Ranger,” Meitar said.
According to her, Ranger was trained in a project called “Dogs for Warriors” of the Service Dog Training Center for combat victims, and he has changed her life more than she ever thought possible.
This project started, perhaps unsurprisingly, from Meitar’s personal distress.
“At the beginning of the war in Gaza, I was in Beit Mazen in Rehovot – it’s a house that is an alternative to psychiatric hospitalization,” she said. “Since then I haven’t returned to the house because there were a lot of missiles and alarms there. In the first days I was in shock, I was looking for something to do, because I didn’t want to go back to the storm of emotions I was in nine years ago. I founded the project to find meaningful employment and work for myself, and also to help others not to end up in my situation,” she said candidly.
According to Meitar, the goal of the project is to reduce and prevent post-trauma, when it is already known that one of the most important things is to reach as many wounded as possible.
“Petting a dog releases endorphins in the brain, so even such a simple action helps subconsciously as well as consciously,” she explained. “Bringing dogs into these spaces where people are in difficult physical and mental situations is a source of light. And every time we get to the hospitals, a magic happens there that is hard to explain.”
Today, about six weeks after the project began, it includes 200 volunteers who come with the dogs – some in training for guidance and care and some service dogs. The majority are Labradors because this is the most common breed all over the world for guiding and service. “These are dogs of love. They love people and are very sensitive to people,” explained Meitar.
“After not getting up for two and a half weeks, she got up for the dog”
The stories Meitar’s team see are endless, but there are a few that left a strong impression on her.
“We had a soldier in Shaare Zedek where I sent a group after she woke up two and a half weeks after being sedated and ventilated. She asked for a dog after hearing about it from her mother. We sent her a dog, specially for her. She got up to face the dog on her feet, and she just sat down with him on the bed and didn’t stop smiling.”
“This work is satisfying and fulfilling and it’s so simple. And it’s also a form of rehabilitation for me,” said Meitar. “I have the ambition to help others. We don’t know who will develop post-traumatic stress disorder in the future and who won’t, and we try to reach as many injured and affected people as possible.”
Meitar concluded: “Post-trauma can be prevented in a great many cases through therapeutic intervention, and as soon as possible. There is a window of time and it is important to reach them as early as possible, and for me also as often as possible.”