In July 2011, clinical psychologist Dr. Lorin Lindner and former special-ops officer and Desert Storm and Desert Shield War Veteran Matthew Simmons launched a new therapeutic program called the Warriors and Wolves project, which works with returning American combat veterans and rescued wolves. The program is available to veterans treated at the Los Angeles VA Hospital.
On a cool California morning last week, my sister and I drove 90 miles north of Los Angeles to the Lockwood Animal Rescue Center, home to the Warriors and Wolves project in the Los Padres National Forest. Once there, we met Lorin and Matt – and Huey, Wiley, Cloud, and the many other wolves and wolfdogs they’ve rescued from neglect, abuse, and misguided humans.
Until scientists established that wolves and dogs belong to the same species, wolfdogs were called wolf hybrids. Sadly, people are breeding more and more wolves and wolfdogs in captivity, creating untenable situations for these animals. Many wolves and wolfdogs are surrendered to shelters, where they are killed if they aren’t first rescued by organizations like the Warriors and Wolves project.
I was awed by how resilient, tolerant, and gentle the wolves and wolfdogs were. And I was equally impressed by how Lorin and Matt have committed to creating a compassionate, environmentally sustainable, and ideal home for animals living at the sanctuary.
Like the combat veterans enrolled in the Warriors and Wolves project, some of the wolves come to the sanctuary traumatized and in need of safety, respect, care, and freedom.
Lorin has spoken candidly about challenges in her 28-year-long career of working with war veterans, particularly after they return with dissociation and despair that can accompany PTSD and depression. She has found that the wolves and warriors find solace in each other.
Lorin and Matt originally met after she launched an innovative program working with parrots and war veterans to help mend invisible scars in both groups of survivors. Lorin’s unique clinical approach led to the construction of a place called Serenity Park, where veterans work with parrots she rescued from confinement, abuse, and isolation. Today, Matt manages the Serenity Park program. Through their work together, Lorin and Matt fell in love, and they were married in 2009 by actor James Cromwell.
Many of the veterans enrolled in the Serenity Park program have improved their PTSD symptoms and ended their dependence on drug use. And the parrots no longer display frenzied rocking, rapid pacing, aggression, self-mutilation, anorexia, or insomnia, which are all behavioral markers of compulsive disorders, depression, and posttraumatic stress.
The results seen at Serenity Park and the Warriors and Wolves program should not be surprising. There is plenty of evidence that people and animals can heal together, even after living through war and other forms of conflict. In an extensive review of studies of war trauma, natural and technological disasters, torture, the Holocaust, and work-related trauma, psychologist John P. Wilson and psychiatrist Beverley Raphael identified several factors associated with resilience. They found that some of the most important contributors to resilience and recovery include connection, bonding, and social interaction.
In a touching interview about their Warriors and Wolves project, Matt commented,
“This all stems from a 17-year-old-girl who decided to stop eating meat, and who 25 years ago decided to start rescuing parrots…and it has rippled through her life…It might have taken a little while for the wave to get here, but I’m on it.”
Want to learn more and get on the wave? You can check out and support the Lockwood Animal Rescue Center here.