The Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia is proud to support service dog training and matching for first responders in Nova Scotia living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The initiative was launched in 2014 in partnership with military veteran and PTSD service dog advocate Medric Cousineau (Paws Fur Thought).
Q & A
How did this initiative begin?
The PTSD Service Dog Matching initiative was launched at the 2014 Compass Group Canada Festival of Trees’ IMP Group Gala Night with a video sharing Medric's story and inviting guests to donate to the cause.
What is ptsd?
(Definition from Canadian Mental Health Association)
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental illness. It involves exposure to trauma involving death or the threat of death, serious injury, or sexual violence.
Something is traumatic when it is very frightening, overwhelming and causes a lot of distress. Trauma is often unexpected, and many people say that they felt powerless to stop or change the event. Traumatic events may include crimes, natural disasters, accidents, war or conflict, or other threats to life. It could be an event or situation that you experience yourself or something that happens to others, including loved ones.
PTSD causes intrusive symptoms such as re-experiencing the traumatic event. Many people have vivid nightmares, flashbacks, or thoughts of the event that seem to come from nowhere. They often avoid things that remind them of the event—for example, someone who was hurt in a car crash might avoid driving.
PTSD can make people feel very nervous or ‘on edge’ all the time. Many feel startled very easily, have a hard time concentrating, feel irritable, or have problems sleeping well. They may often feel like something terrible is about to happen, even when they are safe. Some people feel very numb and detached. They may feel like things around them aren’t real, feel disconnected from their body or thoughts, or have a hard time feeling emotions.
How do Service Dogs help?
PTSD service dogs are specially trained to sense and react to their partner’s triggers and physiology to prevent anxiety attacks, stop night terrors, soothe nerves, divert attention, and encourage use of coping mechanisms. They are companions that provide help without judgment or expectation.
How are the dogs trained?
Service dogs are first picked very carefully based on personality. Puppies must show an interest in people as well as a good work ethic. They must not be overly protective or have a high prey drive, and demonstrate a keen sense of smell. The dogs for this project are selected, trained and certified.
Once a dog is selected, they are placed in a loving family environment to begin basic obedience behaviour training. They attend classes with their foster families and learn tasks such as "sit," "stay," "leave it," and "wait." Then, they gain public access.
Each dog is taught according to the handler's "prescription," as every handler requires their dog to perform tasks that are unique to them personally.
Each dog takes a minimum of 18 months to train. Some require up to 28 months based on their tasks. Some dogs nearly complete training and then "fail" or "wash out" of the program because they have been found unsuitable for one reason or another. Although these dogs may not be suitable as PTSD service dogs, they often make wonderful therapy or facility dogs.
The Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia is proud to fund this training process.
How are matches made?
Paws Fur Thought identifies first responders in need of matches in Nova Scotia. Working closely with trainers, they develop a unique profile of each individual.
The Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia is proud to fund this matching process.
CAN I BE MATCHED WITH A PTSD SERVICE DOG?
To have a service dog you must have a diagnosed disability that your medical team is willing to certify impacts your daily life on a prolonged basis and that you can benefit from the use of a service dog.
The Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia's PTSD Service Dog Matching initiative funding is solely designated to fund matching of service dogs with first responders living with PTSD. The Foundation is unable to fund other matches beyond this initiative at this time.
If you are a first responder in Nova Scotia living with PTSD who is interested in being matched, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to express interest, including as much information as possible.
After submitting an expression of interest, you will be contacted regarding the screening process and possible next steps. Please note that this account is volunteer-run, and monitored weekly.
Is being matched right for me?
If you are a first responder living with PTSD, and your medical team is supportive of your wish to be matched with a service dog, please consider the following questions before reaching out to email@example.com:
1. Am I prepared for a financial commitment that can last from ten to fifteen years?
2. Am I ready for the 24-7-365 needs of my service animal, no exceptions?
3. Am I willing to accept the responsibility for continuing the training required for your service dog?
4. Am I prepared to deal with conflict or misunderstanding related to having an animal with you at all times?
5. Am I ready to become a focal point of attention in public?
6. Read "Questions to ask yourself before getting a service dog" by Medric Cousineau
Can I donate to this initiative?
Absolutely! Click here, or on any of our website's donate buttons, and designate your donation using the drop down menu. Thank you.
Meet some of our new friends who will serve as life-changing companions for these heroes!