WOODLAND PARK, NJ - Author and television broadcaster Steve Adubato recently met the newest member of the Berkeley College Office of Military and Veterans Affairs (OMVA) – Skyla, a 2-year-old rescue dog.
OMVA's Richard Robitaille, EdD, associate vice president, and Tami Pichardo, director, Veterans Affairs, appeared on the public television program “One-on-One with Steve Adubato” with Skyla on April 20, to discuss their efforts in training her as an emotional support animal to assist veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and/or panic attacks as a result of their experiences while in military service.
Skyla joined OMVA in January and a professional dog trainer who specializes in the training and development of service dogs is working with her. Tami Pichardo, director of military and veterans affairs, has adopted Skyla and will act as her primary handler. Once trained, Skyla will participate in OMVA programs and activities, and will spend time with student veterans and veterans in the community.
“Some veterans develop post-traumatic stress disorder after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, such as military combat,” said Robitaille in a news release. “Having a trained service dog is another way the College can support veterans and their emotional needs.”
There are more than 550 student veterans enrolled at Berkeley College.
Service dogs are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act. They are not “pets” or “mascots,” but are considered assistive aids equal under the law to a wheelchair or other device that assists a disabled person. Research shows that support animals can have a calming influence on veterans and can be trained to identify the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression.
“When Skyla was rescued from a kill shelter, she got a second chance at life,” Pichardo said. “Many of our student veterans are also looking for a second chance as they transition to civilian life. This is an opportunity for them to help each other.”