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The dog and pony show; IDANG DPH's have alternative means to help Airmen

Kelly Souder, a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker with the 124th Fighter Wing, takes her miniature horse, Calea, on a tour of Gowen Field to educate Airmen on the benefits of equine therapy, Feb. 8, 2020. Equine therapy uses interactions with horses to promote mental health. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Joseph R. Morgan)

Kelly Souder, a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker with the 124th Fighter Wing, takes her miniature horse, Calea, on a tour of Gowen Field to educate Airmen on the benefits of equine therapy, Feb. 8, 2020. Equine therapy uses interactions with horses to promote mental health. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Joseph R. Morgan)

GOWEN FIELD, Idaho --

Dr. Judy Hafner, Licensed Clinical Psychologist, and Kelly Souder, a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker, are the directors of psychological health for the 124th Fighter Wing. Together, they are offering an alternative means to therapy and psychological health by breaking down barriers and negative stigma of mental health treatment with the introduction of therapy and service animals to their program.

You might see Hafner touring your halls and lighting up faces with a service dog named Ben, the apricot standard poodle, or you might walk outside and hear a cheerful neigh from Souder’s miniature therapy horse, Calea. These are things that you don’t typically see at Gowen Field, but they are here for a good reason and a positive purpose.

Service dogs are known for being naturally calming and good sensors for humans when there is an issue, whether someone is feeling overwhelmed, anxious or depressed. Ben can help calm their breathing and help people to stay relaxed, said Hafner.

Souder’s miniature therapy horse also provides a number of benefits during her visits to base. Horses are proven to produce oxytocin in humans when they put their bare hands on the animal. This is why you cant help but smile and feel relaxed when petting and visiting with Calea.

“The best thing Calea does as a miniature therapy horse is help people be able to become grounded and congruent with their inside emotions,” said Shouder. “She is a non-judgmental, sentient being.”

Hafner and Souder are hoping to make the attendance of Ben and Calea a regular occurrence, with appearances both during drill weekends and occasionally during the workweek. Airmen are welcomed and encouraged to call and schedule a time to visit with the service dog and therapy horse, or just pop in to say hello.

To learn more about the services the DPH offers please call (208) 422-6747.