Monday, 10 December 2018
728 x 90
BREAKING NEWS

PTSD dog among the graduating class of assistance dogs in Burnaby

The four-year-old black Lab with its empathetic and engaging nature and tendency to be “one-person focused,” was flagged for the new program and was a perfect match.

Juliet Walden and Stark pose for a photo at the Michael J. Fox Theatre after the graduation ceremony for the Pacific Assistance Dog Society (PADS) on Sunday. Arlen Redekop / PNG

In over a decade as an RCMP officer, Juliet Walden used to arrest drunk drivers, break up fights at homes and apprehend kids deemed to be at risk.

But it was after she dealt with her third female suicide victim in a two-month period that she started getting a niggling feeling in the pit of her stomach.

“I was used to dealing with violent situations, including de-escalating situations with men twice my size, drug addicts and gang members,” said Walden, 54, who was working at the Surrey RCMP at the time. “Yet it was the death and the suicide that got to me.”

The symptoms were slow but steady: Walden began sleeping only a couple hours a day; she experienced anxiety attacks and flashbacks while at work; she lost her sense of balance, and would find herself in tears at the end of a call.

Eventually, Walden — who had also survived a kidnapping, a previous suicide attempt and abuse — was diagnosed with complex PTSD and acute anxiety disorder that has left her isolated, physically and emotionally, and sometimes in a dissociative state that could last days.

“I trust no one,” she said. “I struggle with self-worth and I hold myself back from making connections with people.”

But it would be a connection from a friend of the four-legged variety that made a difference to Walden’s life. She had applied to the pilot PTSD program offered by the Pacific Assistance Dogs Society and was matched with Stark, the society’s first PTSD service dog, in August.

Born to the Game of Thrones litter (all the pups were named after characters in the HBO series), the four-year-old black Lab with its empathetic and engaging nature and tendency to be “one-person focused,” was flagged for the new program. It was a perfect match.


Juliet and Stark at PADS graduation ceremony at Michael J. Fox theatre in Burnaby.

Arlen Redekop / PNG

“Stark makes me feel safe, and he is helping me recapture trust,” said Walden, speaking at a PADS graduation ceremony for about 20 service dogs Sunday at the Michael J. Fox Theatre in Burnaby, Stark by her side.

To help dissipate her anxiety, Stark performs grounding and breathing techniques with her, or will physically position himself in a way to encourage her to touch him or pet him, she said. “When I have nightmares or night terrors Stark will nudge and push against me. He lets me know that I’m not alone.”

PADS, which breeds, raises, trains and supports certified assistance dogs, launched the PTSD program after seeing the need among veterans, said president Laura Watamanuk.

There are more and more schools that are expanding to offer accredited PTSD service dogs across Canada, including PADS and Vancouver Island Compassion Dogs. “But the truth of it is, if all our schools were training and placing PTSD dogs we still wouldn’t meet the need,” she said.


Tracy Boyd kisses her new service dog Mars.

Arlen Redekop / PNG

The goal would be to place five to 10 dogs a year with clients struggling with PTSD in a couple of years, when the program is up and fully operational, said Margaret Hicks, training program manager.

The Burnaby-based non-profit has maxed out at its current facility and is looking to expand to meet its needs. The City of Burnaby will conduct a needs-assessment report to see what is available on city land. PADS will also conduct an internal assessment before launching a capital campaign.

The organization, which is funded 100 per cent by donations, wants to expand its kennel facility from being able to house 18 dogs to 60. It also wants to increase dorm beds for clients from two to 10.

Walden said it’s important that the public understand mental-health illnesses, such as PTSD: “There is no doubt in my mind this program will be successful and will save lives.”

chchan@postmedia.com

twitter.com/cherylchan

CLICK HERE to report a typo.

Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email vantips@postmedia.com.</p

Source: https://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/ptsd-dog-among-the-graduating-class-of-assistance-dogs-in-burnaby

The Bark Box

« »
Free Email Updates
Get the latest content first.
We respect your privacy.