FRANCE.TV – ON DEMAND – DOCUMENTARY
Bringing a shelter dog and a physically or psychologically wounded soldier together is the Army’s challenge. A mediation program for dogs was established by the army in 2021. Soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder stay in Berriac (Aude): the Carcassonnaise Society for Animal Protection, which collects abandoned dogs and/or victims of abuse, welcomes them there during internships lasting several weeks. They are followed by the aid cell for the army’s wounded, the navy’s, 132.e canine infantry regiment Suippes (Marne) and Sorbonne-Paris Nord University.
The director Jérôme Sesquin signs a sensitive documentary here. What these soldiers have in common is having been physically or psychologically injured in the field, during missions in Afghanistan, France or elsewhere. Signs of post-traumatic stress fall into three categories. They are repeated re-experiencing of the traumatic event, with flashbacks and nightmares; symptoms of avoidance of situations reminiscent of the trauma, with hypervigilance; loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, withdrawal, which can lead to depression.
There is also a permanent state of tension, insomnia, anxiety… So many symptoms which have strong social consequences and on family life. Post-traumatic stress may also be associated with other neuropsychological disorders, particularly addiction, as the risk of suicidal behavior may be increased.
Coming out of isolation
Loïc, who saw a young amputee after a rocket attack in Afghanistan – he was the same age as his brother – tells “the difficulty, in the state of post-traumatic stress, to remain in the present”. We follow him on his journey with the dog Darki. The healers, the references from the auxiliary cells, are betting that the meeting between the injured dog and the soldier, who is also wounded, will enable the soldier to get out of isolation, the goal being that the animal will be adopted at the end of the unit.
Cristopher, traumatized during an operation in the Sahel against the jihadists, returns to testify. He got away with it thanks to his dog, Ruby, who was adopted a year earlier. She gave him permission “Get out [s]to lethargy, to go out, to [lui] set a pace”. For Loïc, the dog allows him “to shorten the times of the day when you can lie in bed, swallow, ruminate, be anxious”.
“The canine animal allows the injured person to be punctured in relation to temporality, to relate to very concrete things”, explains the sociologist Christophe Blanchard, teacher at the Sorbonne-Paris Nord. This reference expert in the mediation of dogs in France coordinates the “Arion” reintegration program, created by the army. Going out, he says, is good for the soldier as well as for the animal, these “broken jaws” walking together on the road to healing.
Talking to other injured people is also restorative, it allows “going out, being with people who understand us”, says Claude, a contestant who adopted Syndelle. This poignant documentary is characterized by the drawings of the graphic designer Priscille De Rekeneire.
Like a dog in a cage, by Jérôme Sesquin (Fr., 2023, 52 min). On France.tv until October 13.