Barb Ashmead has been partnering service dogs with people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder for years but now she is the only Canadian working with Operation Freedom Paws, an American organization that empowers veterans and others to live with their PTSD.
“Mostly what the dog does is it’s able to read the person,” said Ashmead during a training session in Fanny Bay Friday. “First of all, they’ve got a 24/7 companion. That’s the big key.”
Rescue dogs of any breed are used.
“Dogs that are rescued, when they bond with their person will bond 100 per cent and they will give everything to that person,” added Ashmead.
The motto is “Four paws, two feet, one team, saves two lives.”
Steve Knox has PTSD after spending eight years in the army and suffering a near-fatal injury. He was paired with Timber just two weeks ago.
“And I don’t feel nervous, not watching my six anymore so it’s been a big difference,” said Knox. “At home, my wife says I’m happier, I’m sleeping better now. It’s been life-saving for me.”
Serge Lacasse is still an active member of the military in Esquimalt and was just paired with three-month-old Galileo yesterday. He too says it will be life-changing.
“I’ve already had a great night. He helped me last night when I got anxious around 2 a.m.,” said Lacasse. “I look forward to coming to train here every Thursday and Friday.”
The organization recently received $20,000 from Boomer’s Legacy, a charity that raises money in the name of Andrew Boomer Eykelenboom, a military medic from Comox who was killed in Afghanistan in 2006.
“This is what we’re supposed to be doing,” said Andrew’s mother Maureen Eykelenboom who started Boomer’s Legacy after his death. “When you see the difference in someone before they have had a service dog and after it is so amazing.”