The Dog Squad - Service and assistance dogs for combat stress and physical/mental illness
The Dog Squad - Service and Assistance Dogs for Combat Stress and Physical/Mental Illness
Young Diggers welcomes Steve Austin as member of our executive and director of the dog squad. Steve is the head trainer and procurer of animals for the dog squad.
Young Diggers welcomes you to a new programme. Perhaps you are visiting us because of an unmet Combat stress issue that may be related to your military service. If this is the case, and you truly love dogs, then you’ve come to the right place.
For many people ‘mental illness’ is still an unsettling term. Your combat stress may be something that you’ve hidden from others. We’ve been there. Yet, in order to envision a life where you can be functional again you must vanquish shame and silence. There is no shame or weakness in this.
We are deeply moved by the number of diggers experiencing mental illness (combat stress) and we want to do something about it.
HOW TO JOIN THE DOG SQUAD.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org giving your service details and a scanned copy of your doctors or physcs recommendation, if they believe that a dog would be of benefit to your well being. Only young digger members can take part so click on become a member and follow the prompts. Its free just like the dog squad or Complete the form here.
About the programme
We are an organisation that does not stigmatise, pass judgement, or devalue those living with and suffering from combat stress and mental illness. Our unique neurochemistry is the product of nature and the experiences we have had. We deal with these limitations as best we can – responsibly, proactively and with compassion for others who are suffering similarly.
We network with one another, exchange training tips, share resources, and support one another through tough times. We don’t discuss religion or politics, but we sometimes discuss night terrors, fears, anxieties, panic attacks, repetitive behaviours, rages, hallucinations, manic episodes… you get the picture.
A glue that we are about to trial to keep our community together is ‘Dog Medicine’. You will have to learn how to care for your dog properly, train your dog to a high standard, and operate within the laws that govern one’s use of an Assistance Dog. With training an Assistance Dog yourself, you will inevitably enter a new stage in your healing journey. We fully expect that you are already covering your bases with regard to talk therapy, medication, and reading up on your illness. By adding a dog to your treatment plan something profound and wonderful will begin to percolate. Your ability to cope improves, because:
- You are no longer alone in this painful journey;
- You have a soul mate in your dog who is ever-loyal and compassionate; additionally,
- You have a community that not only accepts you but also understands what you are going through; and
- Together, we are forging a new path for a brighter future.
Unknown circumstances can be scary and humans are notorious for avoiding situations where they don’t know what to do or how to act. Having a service dog helps to bridge that uncomfortable barrier. Where someone would feel that couldn’t possibly ask how a person deals with their disability, they’re easily able to show an interest in how the dog helps their partner. This increased social interaction greatly lessens the isolation and feelings of being alone that the disabled individual must cope with every day. As one partner once said; ‘my dog makes my wheelchair disappear’.
Training a dog to become a companion or assistance dog is a two-year commitment at least, and advancement is assisted by having the appropriate age and breed of the dog.
Dogs of 8 months old to a maximum of 2 years are the best age for training; young enough to learn new things, old enough for us to gauge the dog’s personality.
Should a dog not be accepted into this training programme or applicants do not have access to a dog, contact should be made to The Dog Squad as they will assist with sourcing a suitable breed of the right age, and give advice prior to making a decision on a dog.
The Dog Squad is a new initiative, and all participants have a shared responsibility to make this programme a success for the participants and all future Diggers, The Dog Squad operators retain the right to reject any dog that is not deemed suitable.
Finally be clear about the reason for the dog. It is to assist you control, overcome and cope with your combat stress. This is a huge task for a four-pawed colleague. Do not expect more from the dog by thinking it will be good for breeding, showing, hunting, fighting, macho image maker, and other ideas you may have for the dog. It is a dog not a wonder drug; it will try and do everything you ask, but do not destroy your bond by expecting too much.
The programme will get under way early in 2012 and the first few months will be a companion dog training programme involving weekly lessons and tasks built in a tiered fashion through to completion of the companion dog training. In order for the service dog side of the programme to succeed, there must be a ‘super-glue’ like bond between the handler and their Four Paws Trainee. A dog doesn’t care about disabilities or challenges, it is non-biased, non-discriminatory, but it will only excel if it has respect for its handler. This first level of the programme seals that respect between the handler and their dog.
If you are a current serving or ex-serving member of the ADF or NZDF and would like to put in an application to participate in this programme, please click here to email John.
Please note the cost of this programme for ‘Service Members” of Young Diggers is free, membership is free – so join today!
As mentioned, this is a programme with limited participants for the inauguration. Once underway, it is expected that we will start a second wave of Young Diggers into the programme so please don’t be too disappointed if you don’t get in first time around.
Considerations when applying for a companion or assistance dog
There are many things a dog can do, but there are also many things they cannot. When considering a companion dog, make a list of the things you want a dog to do for you, and then consider if the list is reasonable. Some tasks may be easy to teach, others may take many months of practice. Talk over your task list with your family and with your Specialist Trainer. Jesse, the dog in this video clip is totally driven by the tasks set and whilst they are “tricks”, it gives an idea of the tasks that can be set for the right dog.
Returning the Application Form
This programme is not unique as similar services have been running in the USA and United Kingdom.
- If you have a dog you think would be suitable tell us.
- If you need a dog and cant afford one talk to email@example.com
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