In this week’s episode I travelled to Brisbane to the headquarters of The Young Diggers Limited organisation, which offers a range of support services for veterans of the Australian Defence Force, First Responders and their families.
This includes their Dog Squad program that is helping individuals with the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD) and other mental illnesses, it is also saving the lives of rescue dogs in the process who they source and help train for the individuals in need.
One person who has experienced first-hand the effects of PTSD and how having a dog has not only changed his life for the positive, it has also literally saved his life, is Bob Menzies.
Bob was with the Australian Army for over 37 years as a Reservist and Regular soldier within the Royal Australian Signals Corps. He served in Iraq in 2006 and later had two tours to Afghanistan and the Middle East.
Upon his return after last tour, Bob knew he had changed emotionally but was not diagnosed with PTSD until 2017. Without being diagnosed PTSD earlier, Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) was also identified and has been a contributing factor to his systemic heart condition and blood pressure.
Finding himself having severe anger outbursts and anxiety levels that went through the roof whenever he left home, Bob only started leaving home for work and grocery shopping, locking himself away from interacting with people the rest of the time. He says it was his friends and family members with dogs that tended to be able to get him out from time to time as he found that spending time with their four-legged companions seemed to help calm him.
When Bob was due to be medically discharged from the Army, he got in touch Young Diggers and put in an application for an assistance dog, but the wait list was long and as his house still had no fencing, he was told he would have to wait. After spending Christmas in 2018 with his sister’s family and their German Shepherd, he was compelled to starting for a dog on the dog rescue sites.
After posting on Facebook with one of groups he was part of, he found himself meeting a black Labrador in foster called Noah and they hit it off immediately, with Noah waiting to go home with him after their first visit. It’s amazing how dogs can intuitively know when they are needed!
After re-contacting Young Diggers, one of their volunteer professional dog trainers conducted an initial assessment to see if Noah was suitable to become an Assistance Dog. He was a natural and passed with flying colours, so Young Diggers organized the paperwork and payment needed for Noah to become registered as part of the Young Diggers organization and formally given to Bob as his Assistance Dog.
Noah is now an Assistance Dog in Training and has obtained his Learners jacket. He is Bob’s best mate and shadow – changing Bob’s life dramatically. He has helped Bob to laugh again, he helps reduce his emotional upheavals and has managed to help get him out of the house again and start to live again. He’s there when Bob has an emotional set back, knowing the right time to nuzzle up to him and help him calm down.
Bob is just one individual whose life has been turned around by the support of Young Diggers and their assistance dog program. There are many more stories of dogs providing light and love where there was just darkness and despair.
I have seen first-hand how the financial support from PETstock Assist to Young Diggers, and the many other charity organisations they fund, is providing a second chance to both people and pets in need.
If you are an ex-serviceman or woman, or having a family member in the same circumstances, you can enquire about an assistance dog from Young Diggers here.
To find out more about PETstock Assist and how you can help support their work in the community through your purchases and PETstock Assist product sales, click here.
About the Author: Lara Shannon is co-Host of Pooches at Play and has completed a Certificate III in Dog Behaviour & Training with the National Dog Trainers Federation. Lara also runs her own dog training, minding and walking business in Melbourne’s Bayside area.