Pacific Assistance Dog Society - PTSD Service Dog Program

For over 35 years, Pacific Assistance Dog Society (PADS) has been breeding, raising, training and placing assistance dogs with people with disabilities and with community care professionals working in an array of settings from schools to hospitals to courtrooms.

PADS began its PTSD Service Dog Program in 2018. While PTSD is complicated to treat and symptoms vary from person to person, the use of Service Dogs is a valuable complementary treatment used in conjunction with traditional therapies, such as counselling and medications.

Thanks to the support of the Bell True Patriot Love Fund, and donors like you, PADS will be able to place assistance dogs with eight to 10 Veterans and serving members in BC who are dealing with PTSD, helping them return to normal daily living.

Joe’s story: Hidden strength, unseen battles

Joe says that his military career really started when he joined the army cadets at 12 years old. His love of the uniform then had him enlisting in the Canadian Armed Forces as soon as he was able. He served his country for 17 years and his deployments included UN-sanctioned missions in Cambodia and Bosnia.

Sustaining various injuries during his military career, Joe retired from service and tried to live the civilian life in a small town. However, the various symptoms of his PTSD prevented him from feeling safe in public settings. Every day was a struggle and he found himself unable to do the simplest tasks.

Matched with Turtle in the summer of 2023, Joe has peace of mind again and with Turtle by his side can return to the things he once loved, like browsing in the aisles of his favourite store, Canadian Tire.

“In the short time I have been partnered up with Turtle, I have done things I would have never even considered before. Simple day-to-day things that most people take for granted.”

Canine comforters

The symptoms of PTSD include a deep sense of helplessness, abnormal fear, flashbacks, a feeling of numbness, aversion to social contact, or avoidance of situations that might trigger memories.

Service Dogs provide long-term support, 24/7, 365 days a year and can accompany their person everywhere – to work, in the community, and at home.

PTSD Service Dogs can turn on lights in a dark room or retrieve items like a phone or medication. They can even be trained to interrupt nightmares, or interrupt anxiety by placing their head on the person’s lap, or a paw on their foot, or by nudging.

The paws-itivity goes further

PADS’ commitment is to not only provide a service dog but to help build a community for those living with PTSD. PADS stays in touch via text, telephone and in-person connections with clients, in addition to the follow-ups required by their accreditation.

PADS also hosts optional training days in malls, parks, and other outdoor locations, allowing clients to work on maintaining their dog’s skill set while also connecting with other people living with PTSD.

And it’s not just the individual who benefits: PADS estimates that for every Service Dog placed, there is an average of 10 indirect beneficiaries. Family, extended family, co-workers, neighbours, and friends may have less worry and anxiety, and better relationships as the health of the individual improves.

With support from the Bell True Patriot Love fund and other donors like you, the PTSD Service Dog Program is offered at no cost to the Veteran or serving member – thank you for helping to make an impact, one dog at a time!