A BC military veteran suffering from Post-Traumatic stress disorder, is encouraging others in his situation to get a furry companion.
56-year-old Liam Stackwood lives at Honour House in New Westminster, and served in Israel and Syria as a military police officer for the United Nations during the 1990’s.
“I saw a lot of death and accidents and bad behaviour, and some of those things have left an impression on me.”
Close by his side is Hammer, a 17-month-old black lab.
“Having the dog around just to intervene and help me de-stress, or change what I’m thinking about, has just been crazy.”
His wife agrees. Lisa Stackwood says having Hammer in the house has changed their lives.
“I’ve never seen Liam smile and laugh so much in a very long time. Because every morning he wakes up to this thing, goofball licking his ears. He’s just really lightened up both of our lives so much. He just gives you a reason to get out of bed.”
Delays dog service animal program
Stackwood says the program has been such a benefit to him he wants to see it accessible to more veterans. And faster. He says it can take up to two years to connect a veteran with a service dog.
Veterans Affairs is currently funding research into a national service dog program, but it’s not yet in place.
Here in BC, the provincial branch of the Canadian Legion is using poppy donations to help pay for a smaller scale dog program for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress.
Executive Director Inga Kruse say the BC legion still wants national standards for training PTSD service dogs. But she says the need is great enough that they can’t wait.
In the meantime, they’re partnering with the Vancouver Island Compassion Dog Society.
“I think there is really a wave of understanding that even with therapy and good treatment, PTSD is a terrible terrible affliction.”
That program currently assists Island vets, but Kruse says they’re still looking for a Metro Vancouver partner to help train dogs in the Lower Mainland.