An awesome UK assistance Labrador, Fudge, was the inspiration behind a charity set up by her owner to help other veterans in need.
We often hear about veterans who absolutely adore and love their assistance dogs. But do you wonder how assistance dogs help veterans?
Craig MacLellan is adamant about how important dogs are in his life. Without them, he says, “I’d be dead.”
He suffers from PTSD and his “assistance dogs” Fudge and Boo makes his life easier and worth living.
At the age of 16, he joined the Marines and later served several tours in Northern Ireland. But his experiences there took a heavy toll on his health.
He was 35 – five years out of the armed forces – when he suffered a severe breakdown. He was having crippling panic attacks, depression, hyper-vigilance, and agoraphobia. These attacks left him increasingly isolated. He rarely went out of the house and thought about suicide.
During a six-week residential course with the charity Combat Stress, Craig asked to let his Labrador Fudge accompany him on the course.
A couple of weeks later, he and other veterans noticed a pattern – when they closed the door during group therapy sessions, Fudge would wander around the room before settling down.
“We started to notice she would go back to a person and sit with them,” Craig says.”We started to realize it was the person who was feeling most anxious or the person who was slightly more emotional than other people.”
Fudge became popular with other veterans on the course.
“She became so popular,” says Craig, “that she would come out of a session with my group and she would go into a session with another group. The guys would actually come and ask me if they could borrow her. She was an emotional sponge for the six weeks we were there, not just for me but for everyone else around her.”
Inspired by Fudge and the experience in the course, Craig set up the Veterans With Dogs charity in 2012. The charity’s dogs are trained to help veterans with mental health conditions, including PTSD.
The latest training course at the Seal-Hayne centre is run by the Dame Hannah Rogers Trust. The coursebrings veterans and dogs together to improve familiarity and develop basic assistance skills.
Basically, the dogs assist with everyday routines including:
- opening doors
- switching on lights
- helping to fetch medication
- even getting them up in the morning to make sure they don’t linger in bed for hours on end.
Craig insists that assistance dogs are not an alternative to treatment, but they are important in complementing it.
Boo, who replaced Fudge as his main assistance dog, now goes with Craig on shopping trips.
If the situation becomes too stressful for Craig, he will kneel down and seek reassurance from Boo.
Image and article source: Channel 4