Canine compassion for veterans diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Some special dogs visit the Royal Canadian Legion's regional HQ in Cloverdale

War veterans and their Vancouver Island Compassion Dogs include

SURREY — Seated at the Royal Canadian Legion’s B.C./Yukon Command office in Cloverdale, Jean petted his yellow Lab, Tui, and was eager to show off his tattoo.

“In my darkest moments I searched for a hand, but instead I found a paw,” are the words prominently inked on his left arm, which held a leash for one of five Vancouver Island Compassion Dogs in the room.

The program matches war veterans diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with dogs that help them cope with life after the hell of combat.

On Thursday (Nov. 3), Jean was among five war veterans who ferried their way from Vancouver Island to the Legion’s regional headquarters, on 58th Avenue, to tell their stories to the Now.

They were there with Barb Ashmead, CEO and founder of the Qualicum Beach-based Compassion Dogs, to also pick up a $60,000 cheque, the latest donation to the program from the Legion Foundation.

(Story continues below photo)

The money will help train more service dogs and their war-veteran handlers as part of the year-long VICD program.

“Our job is to make sure they’re a safe and confident team, and that wherever they go – the grocery store, out for a walk, riding a bus – they can handle it and work together,” Ashmead said. “That comes with a lot of work and a lot of training.”

Ashmead introduced the veterans to the Now by their first names only, and requested that no questions about their combat history be asked.

“That can trigger flashbacks,” she noted.

(Story continues below photo)

Bob held a leash for Morgan, a Border Collie cross retriever, as he talked about the bond he’s developed with the dog.

“There are times I thought I’d just pack it up and quit, drive of a cliff type of thing, but it came to the point where I got Barb’s help, who encouraged me not to throw it all away,” said Bob, who wore a red T-shirt with the phrase, “My therapist licks my face,” on the back.

“I was just getting frustrated and having a hard time getting along and getting things done, because my memory’s not that good. Morgan has helped me out a lot and he calms me down.”

(Story continues below photo)

With his dog Sarge, Stephane lives in Victoria. “I never had a dog before, and Sarge makes me go outside for walks, five or six times a day,” Stephane explained. “If I don’t, he starts whining, says it’s time to go visit friends in the park. Sometimes I don’t put his red vest on and that allows him to just be a dog, play time. The vest is his uniform, like people in the military, and when the uniform is on, it’s work time, and when it’s not, it’s fun time.”

Ashmead nodded in agreement.

“If you took the vests off these dogs right now, they’d probably be running around the office here,” she said. “They know the difference.”

(Story continues below photo)

Stephane said he and Sarge help each other.

“Sometimes I have nightmares and he also has nightmares, so we kind of keep each other in line, even though he helps me more than I help him,” Stephane said.

With the guidance and mentorship of B.C. Guide Dog Services, the Compassion Dogs program was founded four years ago.

The cost to train each veteran-dog team is around $15,000, for expenses including leashes, dog food, fuel costs, vet fees, obedience training and everything else.

“Our five-year plan is to raise enough money to get a house in the area, in Qualicum, where the (veterans) can come in and stay for two weeks for training, in groups of four,” Ashmead said.

tom.zillich@thenownewspaper.com

See video below from Shaw TV in Nanaimo.

Just Posted

Surrey RCMP damage ‘sophisticated’ criminal enterprise, seizing ‘Super buff’ and 60,000 doses of meth

Police believe the criminal operation was supplying drugs beyond Surrey’s borders. No arrests yet

North Delta junior curlers score a rare eight-ender

Delta Thistle Curling’s Junior Delta 1 is among only 12 teams in B.C. to score a perfect end this season

Delta to give Deltassist $75,000 for seniors programs

The funding will replace a grant from United Way that’s set to expire next year

SBOT CEO ‘disappointed’ as Surrey council moves to cut $30K from proposed grant

Council has proposed a Surrey Board of Trade grant be reduced to $10,000, after staff recommended a $40,000 grant

UPDATE: Heavy rainfall, strong winds in forecast for Lower Mainland

Heavy rains, snow expected till Friday morning

Cannabis gift ideas for this holiday season

Put the green in happy holidays, now that cannabis is legal in Canada

B.C. man linked to human remains probe gets absolute discharge on unrelated mischief count

Curtis Sagmoen was in Vernon Law Courts Dec. 13 for a mischief trial

Supreme Court upholds Canada’s right to reargue facts in assisted-dying case

Julia Lamb and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association are spearheading a challenge of the law

B.C. company facing several charges in 2017 chicken abuse case

CFIA investigation leads to 38 charges against Elite Farm Services and Ontario-based Sofina Foods

Woman forcibly confined, sexually assaulted between Creston and Cranbrook

The suspect forced the woman into her vehicle before driving along Highway 3

North Delta happening: week of Dec. 13

Events, courses and clubs listings for North Delta

‘I thought I was dead as soon as I saw the gun’

Keremeos gas station attendant tells story about man with gun coming to store

5 to start your day

Torched-SUV victim from Surrey ‘had the purest heart,’ TransLink will bring free WiFi to buses, SkyTrain and Seabus by 2020 and more

‘People talk about deep sadness:’ Scientists study climate change grief

Some call it environmental grief, some call it solastalgia — a word coined for a feeling of homesickness when home changes around you.

Most Read