Vets, first responders with PTSD paired with service dogs

A national organization that pairs up military veterans and first responders suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder with companion animals wrapped up a training course in the Ottawa area on Friday.

Courageous Companions wraps up training course in the Ottawa area

Manon St-Amour gets a friendly lick from her service dog Tippi, who she met through national organization Courageous Companions. The organization was in the Ottawa area this week connecting former military members and first responders with companion animals. (CBC Ottawa)

When Manon St-Amour needs a reminder of how she overcame her anxiety, all she has to do is give her dog Tippi a pat on the head.

"She gives me the possibility to come back to reality," said St-Amour, who's been with Tippi for about 18 months. "When I panic, she will put her paw on me and she will say, 'Manon it's OK. I'm here. It's 2015, life is good, relax.'" 

The group Courageous Companions introduced Tippi to St-Amour, one of about 140 veterans and first responders they've set up with service dogs.

Dogs rescued from shelters

The national organization has just wrapped up a training course in the Ottawa region, during which four students were paired with new animals, said Marc Lapointe, the organization's national program director.

Courageous Companions rescues dogs from shelters and trains them for between four and six months, until they're ready to help people with needs that include post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, and autism, said Lapointe.

Once they've been paired up with a new owner, the results can be immediate.

"You're a fighter in Afghanistan kicking down doors and six months later you're in your bed crying like a baby," said Lapointe, a former military sniper who's had his own service dog, Sticker, for the past two and a half years.

"[Life with a] service dog is night and day."

Daniel Pelletier was a member of the Canadian infantry for 25 years, and spent the past week training with Brendan, his new service dog, teaching him to sit and socializing him by visiting grocery stores and other public spaces.

"Brendan is a very good dog," said Pelletier. "We got along right away. Inside the home, he's a very calm dog."


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