Two years ago, the Pet Adoption and Welfare Society formed a wonderful relationship where four shelter dogs were put into a training program for Citadel Canine Society. This is a non-profit charitable organization that trains service dogs for new veterans and first responders suffering the complications of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Tommy, a German shepherd, was perfectly partnered with an Afghanistan veteran, Chevy, a Great Dane/Shar-Pei mix, was paired with an RCMP veteran, and Barney, Tommy’s brother, was paired with another military veteran. After almost a year of regular followup training, two of the dogs were certified as service dogs. One of dogs came back to Creston as his partner wasn’t quite ready to follow the program.
Since then, Linka, a Newfoundland mix, and Hunter, a chocolate lab, have joined the force as service dogs. Hunter is still in training and has a way to go yet.
Citadel dogs must have what it takes to take on the tasks of partnering with PTSD. This is different than a service dog for someone with physical issues. They too must be trained to a high level of obedience and be on duty whenever they are with their partners. When you see such a dog, one may ask, what’s that dog for? These dogs work hard. They are trained to be alert to their partner’s every move. They create a safety zone around their partner, they watch for anxiety or any change that tells the dog to interrupt a behaviour caused from a trigger such as a sudden loud noise, crowds or heavy traffic, as a few examples.
This all started with a dog named Perry who was picked up as a stray in the Canyon area, and brought to the PAWS shelter, where he lived for many months. Perry was adopted out twice and returned because he was “not the right dog”. Perry was just biding his time for his lifetime partner to show up, and he did — a perfect match that brought tears to many eyes.
Well, two and a half years later, that young soldier has his life back, can confidently face the world, married his girlfriend and life is moving forward for him. This is because of Perry and this is why Citadel Canine Society does what it does.
Citadel Canine Society has been busy these past two years, and now has a dozen trainers across Canada and has placed about 26 dogs, with several more in the training stage; all but six are rescued dogs. On Oct. 25, most of us were able to attend a workshop in person or via Skype. We were invited to an Equitas Disabled Soldiers Funding Society fundraising dinner where, much to our surprise, Vicki McDonald (longtime past-president of PAWS) and I were honoured with a certificate of appreciation, along with PAWS and its volunteers for their critical initial support of the onset of the Citadel mission.
On a side note, Equitas is a group of concerned Canadians who formed the Equitas (meaning “equality”) society, incorporated pursuant to the laws of British Columbia, in order to provide these services to our disabled soldiers. This group is raising the awareness of the reduced disability benefits provided to our disabled Canadian soldiers as result of the 2006 New Veterans Charter, and raising the funds necessary to pay for the legal disbursement costs of the disabled soldiers who have retained the law firm Miller Thomson to address their reduced disability benefits in the courts.
Brian Archer is a founder of Equitas and the founder of Citadel Canine Society. He met Perry and his owner at a dog park one day and from there the story grows.
—BY DIANA MILLER