Today our guest is Danielle Forbes from National Service Dogs.
They work with children with autism, Veterans with PTSD, as well as first-responders. They started as a program providing service dogs for autism 22 years. They were the first program to develop this type of program for autism. They found that the dogs would also be of assistance to Veterans with PTSD. Trauma is cumulative, so over time it can be harder and harder to deal with.
The challenge is, there is only a handful of people providing dogs, and the demand is so high, they just can’t keep up. What works well with the Veterans and first-responders is the sense of routine, it is regimented in them. Bringing the dog in, from day one there is training with the dog, it is like a switch that turns back on. Sometimes due to the years of military training it is part of who they are to have that routine and structure. It can be the start of a new life.
The dogs are certified at the time of placement, the handler has to pass a public access test, and then the dog is again re-certified in years 1, 2, 3, 6, and 9. It is a big responsibility, but the benefits are huge.
The accessibility laws across Canada allow service dogs in the workplace. There are some jobs where it just isn’t safe or practical for the dog, but there are accommodations that can be made. Educating employers is part of the service that is offered, to help make the transition easier. They try to match the dogs with the type of placement that works best for them.
Nightmare interruption is a big part of how the dog can help a Veteran. A decent night’s sleep can make a significant difference to people. The dogs are trained to use a “blanket pull” that helps wake up the person having the nightmare. The reality affirmation is important. The dog can help the owner gauge their own personal safety.
How the dogs can be of help to first-responders is being addressed.
The Legion, through the poppy fund and Wounded Warriors, will be helping to fund service dogs for Veterans.