To Treat Veterans, Therapists Are Experimenting With Fly Fishing And… Kangaroos?


A fisherman on the riverThe U.S. recently marked the passage of another Veteran’s Day, during which Americans honor the veterans who fought for their country.

In the 21st century, the medical profession has become more aware of the unique issues facing the veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Now, all over the world there are communities, non-profits, veteran’s groups, and health care organizations coming together to experiment with new therapies for helping veterans.

In combination with traditional physical and mental health care, many veterans now participate in less conventional forms of healing, using everything from fly fishing to kangaroos.

Many people have benefited from the companionship and affection of therapy animals. Now one Salt Lake City, Utah, veteran’s home is drawing attention for its one-of-a-kind menagerie of service animals. The Utah home raises traditional therapy animals like dogs and cats, but has also been home to 14 kangaroos over the past 16 years.

Residents and staff members say that Charlie the Kangaroo helps brighten up the former soldiers’ days.

“Well the first time I was… I thought I’d lost my taw, and then I got thinking wait a minute, he’s wearing a diaper, he must belong here,” said one resident.

Elsewhere, horse therapy and art programs are gaining currency as popular alternative treatments for veterans. Then there’s Healing Waters, a national fly fishing organization that does outreach at Veterans Administration locations around the United States. Already, more than 38 million Americans go hunting and fishing every year, including about 3.83 million who participate in fly fishing.

In California this fall, Dublin resident Steve Witherby is helping veterans use those interests for their therapeutic benefits. Witherby has been volunteering his time and fly fishing expertise to help disabled veterans with PTSD, hearing loss, and traumatic brain injury.

“It helps with my depression in a really big way. It really takes you out of the stress,” said one 26-year-old Afghanistan veteran. “You get lost in your world, wrapped up in what you’re doing.”


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