How 'four-legged rehabilitators' are helping Ukrainian children traumatised by war

four legged rehabilitators
Maggie Davies

The owner of American pit bull terrier Bice said that spending 30 minutes with the canine provides children and young people with “freedom from problems, and happiness”.

Sky News reports that children in war-torn Ukraine are seeking comfort from trauma with the help of tail wagging therapist Bice, an American pit bull terrier.

The state-owned Centre for Social and Psychological Rehabilitation, in Boyarka, a suburb around 12 miles (20km) southwest of Kyiv, is using support from dogs in order to comfort children who may be traumatised from Russia’s war.

Established in 2000, the centre remains one of the few places with light and heating as Russian attacks on Ukrainian energy infrastructure leave homes without power.

Oksana Sliepora, a psychologist, observed how some children are scared of loud noises, such as the sound of a jet or the closing of a window. She said that some even drop to the floor or start asking whether there is a bomb shelter close by.

Ms Sliepora said: “I read a lot of literature that working with dogs, with four-legged rehabilitators, helps children reduce stress, increase stress resistance, and reduce anxiety.”

One group of children – seven girls and nine boys – ranging from two to 18 years old, were asked by Bice’s owner, Darina Kokozei, to come and ask him to perform a trick, from standing on his hind legs
to rolling over.

Some of the children using the centre have witnessed Russian soldiers invade their hometowns and beat their relatives. Some are the sons, daughters, brothers or sisters of soldiers who are on the front lines, many of whom have been killed.

A brother and sister from Kupyansk, a city in the eastern region of Kharkiv, witnessed Russian soldiers storming into their home with machine guns, grabbing their grandfather, putting a bag on his head and beating him, Ms Sliepora said.

Another, 9-year-old Maxim, has a 19-year-old paratrooper brother fighting in the town of Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk region. His mother, Lesya Kucherenko, regularly breaks into tears when she thinks about her eldest son.

When asked what message Bice offers to the children, Ms Kokozei replied: “Freedom. Freedom from problems, and happiness.”

(Story source: Sky News)

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