PTSD service dog awareness goal of Edmonton meet-and-greet
Trainer says there is a 'lack of knowledge' in how to treat service dogs and their owners
Before Diego, Jeffery Yetman could barely make it outside on his own.
Yetman has served for 26 years in the armed forces. He's been deployed to Bosnia, the Balkans, Afghanistan and Croatia.
In 2002, Yetman was diagnosed with severe post-traumatic stress disorder. For the next 11 years, he suffered on his own before a major breakdown in 2013.
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A year later he got Diego.
His whole life changed.
"He's the world to me. He gave me my independence back. He allowed me to go out in public by myself without a lot of fear of what's going on behind me," Yetman explained.
"He checks behind me, he checks down aisles, he checks down alleyways. I don't really need to worry about that anymore."
Yetman — in all honesty — can't see his life without Diego
Yetman and Diego were just some of the people and canines in the Tim Hortons at CFB Edmonton on Saturday, where children fawned over the dogs.
The meet-and-greet was organized in the hopes of educating people about this kind of service dog and how to act around them.
The dogs were brought in and trained by Cedar Santanna of Lethbridge-based Alpha K9.
At one point in the day Santanna found herself sitting in a small booth looking over the animals.
At her feet laid a service dog, quietly and silently surveying the room.
This is how service dog should act, explained Santanna, well trained, quiet, and there when a user needs it.
"They are literally a tool to help these people get through their everyday life," Santanna said.
"The difference between a service dog and a therapy dog is that a therapy dog is just there to make you feel better at the moment, a service dog is trained for specific tasks."
Alpha K9 is a training program that specializes in PTSD service dogs for people with mobility issues.
Santanna has lost family members to PTSD and believes it's important people understand the value of service dogs.
"As people become more aware of PTSD, there is a glaring lack of knowledge in both the importance of PTSD service dogs, and the etiquette in how to treat the dog and the owner," she said.