“Adventure Therapy” and a Loyal Dog and Cat Heal an Iraqi Vet

Fighting in Iraq had conditioned Stephen Simmons to adrenaline-fueled days and a life of constant intensity. “It’s in your system, and it doesn’t turn off when you get back here,” he says. So when the Army veteran returned home from the Iraq War in 2008, he struggled with the quiet of civilian life. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) only compounded the challenge of finding his place in society.

Tapping into his love of nature and the bond he shares with his pets—a dog named Puppi and a cat named Burma—Simmons created what he calls his own “adventure therapy” program, consisting of daily walks and hikes in Oregon’s high mountains, with Puppi and Burma close by. Simmons and his pals are “part of a pack,” and the combination of physical activity and animal companionship has revealed to him that, as he puts it, “beneath the depression, I really do care what happens to me. Adventure therapy has given me immense hope for the future, and a newfound determination to overcome my situation.”

He hope other struggling veterans will give it a try. Says Simmons, “If I can get better, I know any other veteran can get better, too.”

Stephen, Puppi, and Burma hit the trail:

Video courtesy HooplaHa, a digital brand whose original video segments include real people and personal stories, and named “one of the ten happiest places on the internet” by the Huffington Post.