February 22, 2024

Against the backdrop of the difficult images that we have all come across in the last few weeks, there is one project that brings out a smile during these tough times.

It’s called “Dogs on Order 8”, and it includes dogs trained as guide dogs, therapy dogs, and service dogs, as well as sociable and cute ones.

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, and families of victims is Meitar Sela, a war veteran 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.

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“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. She explained, “Petting a dog releases endorphins in the brain, so even such a simple action helps subconsciously as well as consciously.” She also mentioned that bringing dogs into spaces where people are in difficult 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.

The work is satisfying and fulfilling, said Meitar. “This work is satisfying and fulfilling and it’s so simple. And it’s also a form of rehabilitation for me,” she said. “Post-trauma can be prevented in 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.”