Haiti rescue dogs suffer depression

Dogs just like human beings, do suffer from the occasional bout of depression. This is characterized by most of the same symptoms as humans: moping, lethargy, loss of appetite, weight loss, a chemical imbalance.

According to a member of one of the the South African teams that just returned from Haiti, the rescue dogs used in search-and-rescue operations became depressed by the devastation they witnesses in the aftermath of the 7.0 quake. “One of the challenges was the dogs did get depression…,” Mark Louw told a media briefing by the Gift of the Givers (GotG) – a local disaster relief organization – in Johannesburg on Monday. He explained that while the dogs did feel rewarded whenever someone was found alive this seldom happened.

South African rescue teams working in Haiti will themselves need trauma counseling when they return home according to GotG which has sent four teams to the disaster area. The teams assisted in rescuing many Haitians including a 60-year old woman who was pulled out alive from a destroyed hospital in Port au Prince.

In one case they had to pull out hundreds of bodies from a hospital in order to make it operational. The effects thereof has left team members physically and emotionally drained. The South African team of which Mark Louw was a member linked up with a Mexican organization which assisted them with logistics, transport and accommodation — which was tents and sleeping bags on the cement floor of an old building.

They spoke of their terrible time in Haiti : “Even the poorest of the poor South Africans have something to be grateful for, there’s nothing left in that country,” said member of the medical team Andre Keyser. “When you starting treating people, especially the children, there are no more smiles. All their smiles are gone,” said Keyser as he described a general feeling of depression among the Haitian people. “It’s almost as if they are dead inside.”

Keyser called on South Africans to pray for Haiti at the briefing which was also attended by North West premier Maureen Modiselle who was there to welcome home the emergency medical personnel team who accompanied the GotG as most were from the province.The message from Haiti’s experience is that South Africa is blessed to be facing our problems. They could be a million times worse.