I have been captivated by a wonderful program that rescues dogs and transforms them into elite service animals for Canadian veterans suffering from operational stress injuries, including post-traumatic stress disorder, amputations, and paralysis. These psychiatric service dogs are given to a veteran free of charge from Meghan Search and Rescue’s Courageous Companions Elite K-9 Service Dogs program. (Meghan is Cree for wolf).
Canada has deployed an unprecedented number of personnel to missions sanctioned by the United Nations and many of our service men and women have returned home severely traumatized by a war that has been described as a continuous 360-degree conflict, with no front line to advance toward, no discernible uniformed enemy, no predictable patterns, unconventional strategies and tactics, and no relief from an unrelenting heightened state of awareness.
Some missions were to be benevolent and non-combative and soldiers were expected to keep the peace when there was no peace to keep, and to stand by while witnessing people begging for help amid ethnic cleansing and genocide. Others were blown into pieces by improvised explosive devises. The horrific nature of the war on terror drove some of our veterans into a downward spiral of depression, panic, anxiety and grief. Some ended their pain by ending their own lives.
Courageous Companions have 97 wounded Canadian veterans on a waiting list for a service dog. There are 22 ready-to-go elite service dogs that can’t be deployed because of insufficient funds to help with the training costs associated with pairing the dog to the veteran. There is not enough money to help these wounded veterans with the related travel expenses.
This is especially heartbreaking considering one of them has given the best of themselves, on our behalf, to their country and the other is committing an entire life to service. Seems to me we can make dreams come true and a Christmas present to a veteran is in order.
Dickens wrote that Christmas is “a time when want is most keenly felt.” To some veterans it is another joyless holiday consisting of despair for them, their families and especially their children. Their incomes are often inadequate. Some vets can’t get out of bed on Christmas morning, while others do what they can to avoid it all by leaving the home. Family dinner is a moment that can’t pass quick enough.
Veterans have already encountered enough adversity, more than many of us may see in a lifetime. We can help mitigate their difficulties by nudging the Christmas spirit and coming up with a donation that will get these special dogs to these special veterans.
Branch 13, a dashing example of an arm of the Royal Canadian Legion, recently sprang into action. Using an allowable portion of their Poppy Campaign funds, they were able to help a veteran who is a double amputee and served in Bosnia and Afghanistan. His Christmas gift is Snow, a pure white dog adopted from the SPCA in Gatineau. Veteran and dog are currently being paired at a training facility in Ottawa.
But what about the other 21 available trained dogs and 97 veterans on the waiting list? Branch 13 wants to get these dogs to those who need them as soon as possible. They are accepting donations to help deploy these dogs. You can help by sending or dropping off your donations in care of Bob Murdoch, Branch 13 of the Royal Canadian Legion, 1577 Kingston Rd., Toronto, ON, M1N 1S3.
Remember that there is no cost for a PTSD service dog to any Canadian Forces members (retired or active). They have paid enough!