SEATTLE -- Watching television and seeing Rex leave the vet’s office is when dog behavior consultant Julie Forbes says she knew he’d need more than physical care to heal from the trauma he faced.
“He’s going to need emotional help now,” said Forbes.
She says just like people need emotional therapy after trauma, so do dogs.
“PTSD works in the same part of the brain in dogs as it does in people and any other mammal, really,” said Forbes.
Rex returned home over the weekend. His owners say they’ve noticed changes in him after he was shot while protecting 16-year-old Javier who hid in a closet when intruders broke into their home.
"He’s really traumatized now. Fast reactions will scare him now. He’ll jump and stuff,” said Javier Mercado, who got Rex as a puppy.
Mercado says Rex barks a lot every time someone he doesn’t recognize walks into the house.
"For some reason, he keeps looking at our shoes, he keeps barking at our shoes,” said Javier’s mother, Julia Cadena.
Cadena says she thinks maybe the intruders kicked him during the burglary and Rex is associating unfamiliar shoes with the memory of that day, something Forbes says is likely.
"They can make associations when they happen to see something in the same time of a traumatic event,” said Forbes.
She says PTSD therapy for dogs is similar to the kind humans get; once the physical wounds heal, Rex may need medication for anxiety, and being positively stimulated will help ease those stressful memories.
"As many positive experiences to kind of help dilute and engage the nervous system in a constructive and engaging way,” said Forbes.
Javier says he’s more than ready to stay positive for Rex.
"That’s my little guy right there, that’s my best friend,” said Javier.
Forbes says dogs can surprise us, and heal faster than we might expect.
"Just know that it takes time and just have faith that he will get over it,” said Forbes.
Javier says he’s hopeful Rex will heal emotionally and physically and they’ll have a deeper bond sharing the recovery journey together.