Stephane Marcotte with his service dog, Sarge, who helps him deal with post-traumatic stress disorder. (Kevin Laird/Sooke News Mirror)

Service dogs heal invisible wounds of war

Man’s best friend help veterans with PTSD

If angels take dog form, Ace is one of them.

He predicts panic attacks, warns of migraine headaches, and greatly improves the life of a veteran suffering from war’s psychological aftermath.

Greg Alkerton said Ace is so in tune with his condition that he detects symptoms before he can, reducing the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder.

“He has added to my strength and his gentle nature has opened my heart and mind … as long as Ace is with me, I know that I am just fine,” he said.

Alkerton, along with fellow veteran Stephane Marcotte, visited Sooke schools Friday with their dogs, as part of a Remembrance Day teaching program.

RELATED: Veteran earns stripes fighting PTSD

Sufferers of PTSD commonly experience flashbacks to extreme trauma, panic attacks in crowded places, and nightmares that can manifest into night terrors.

The dogs used by Alkerton and Marcotte are supplied the Vancouver Island Compassion Dogs Society.

The organization equips veterans who struggle with stress injuries like PTSD with the support of a service dog that’s specially-trained to help them deal with the associated symptoms.

After applying and being accepted to the program, veterans are gradually paired up with a dog and embark on a year-long training program towards receiving certification.

Twice a week, the pair meets with VICD’s professional trainers and a mental health clinical practitioner for training sessions that foster everything from basic obedience skills to specific tactics that enable the dog to help the veteran navigate his unique set of struggles and symptoms.

“Most importantly, training as a team creates a deep bond between the dog and veteran that in turn translates into ongoing, unconditional support,” said Barb Ashmead, director of administration, funding and sponsorship for the society.

The program costs about $28,000 per dog, offered at no cost to the participants. VICD receives support from the Royal Canadian Legion’s B.C. Yukon Command and private funders. There’s no government funding.

The dogs are donated to the society from the B.C. Guide Dogs Services when they’re 14 to 16 months old.

RELATED: Dog-eared-reading-program-helps-struggling-kids

“They don’t make it as a guide dog because they’re not good for walking from Point A to Point B, but the veterans aren’t blind so they work out to be perfect as PTSD service dogs,” Ashmead said.

The dogs remain with the veterans for about 10 years.

Alkerton is retiring Ace soon and is now training Charlie, both Black labs.

Ashmead said the service dogs are in high demand on the Island: 18 people have graduated, 16 people going through the program and a year-long wait list.

“The more donations we get, the more dogs we can bring in. We have the training staff, and we have the dogs. We just need the finance to be able to do it all,” she said.

For more information on the Vancouver Island Compassion Dogs Society, please go online to vicompassiondogs.ca.



editor@sookenewsmirror.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Goudy library expansion opens to the public

New work space area includes charging stations

View Royal amends zoning bylaw for liveaboard vessels

The Town is taking a proactive approach to regulate waterway

Inside the music

Big Read: step behind the curtain at the venerable Vancouver Island Music Festival

Sport fishing ban protest organizers trolling for attention

Hook-less anglers hitting Sooke area waters July 29 to protest DFO’s summer fin-fish ban

Launch party for Vancouver Island’s new soccer team a success

More seating will be added to Westhills before the spring

Here’s what you need to know about Day 2 at the BC Games

From equestrian to volleyball to swimming, all 18 events in full swing here in the Cowichan Valley

Race walker breaks 18-year-old BC Games record

Zone 6 athlete Olivia Lundman crossed finish line with ease, to loud cheers in Cowichan

PHOTO GALLERY: BC Games Day 2

A brief look at action from the 2018 BC Summer Games in the Cowichan Valley

BC Wildfire update on 14 major Okanagan blazes

Watch the media briefing on the current fire situation in the Okanagan.

UPDATED: Kinder Morgan pipeline protesters defy eviction order

Demonstrators at Camp Cloud in Burnaby say they won’t leave, but will meet with city officials

Ex-Raptor DeMar DeRozan says goodbye to Toronto on Instagram

The guard was traded to the San Antonio Spurs earlier this week for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green

Okanagan wildfires have potential to become firestorms, says UBC expert

David Andison said to let smaller fires go, to create pockets in the landscape for new forests

2017 wildfires give B.C. mom chance to say thank you to officer who saved her son

An unlikely encounter in the rural community of Likely, near Williams Lake

Cigarette packs with graphic images, blunt warnings are effective: focus groups

Warnings considered effective flag ailments smoking can cause, like colorectal and stomach cancers

Most Read