The Paws Fur Thought organization matches dogs and puppies to appropriate trainers, and then volunteers co-ordinate matching people with invisible injuries, like post traumatic stress disorder, with trained service dogs. Service dogs change the lives of their handlers, offering them hope for a brighter future.
These unique dogs require special training to fulfil their role in the life of their handler. When humans are under stress, they release unique pheromones through their skin. The dog’s sense of smell is so acute it can detect even subtle changes in these pheromones.
“The dogs are trained to act on that cue. They will nudge the person to let them know they are becoming upset. The dogs are emotional early warning systems,” said retired captain Medric Cousineau, a former RCAF navigator and founder of Paws Fur Thought.
The dogs also carry the antidote when handlers are at risk of a mental health crisis.
“When a handler becomes stressed or upset they use their dog to centre themselves. They pet the dog and oxytocin is released in to their body. Oxytocin is a feel-good hormone,” said Cousineau.
Service dogs work day and night. They can become so tuned in to their handlers behaviour and emotions they can wake a handler having a nightmare, and sometimes predict a night terror before it even starts. When these events occur the dog will nudge the sleeping person until they respond.
Depending on the needs of the owner the dogs can be trained, among many things, to alert them when someone comes up behind their owner, or when their handler is anxious and overwhelmed by a crowd. Having a service dog ensures the owner is not completely alone, or self-isolating and gives the owner a purpose as dogs need to be walked, fed and loved.
“The challenges Paws Fur Thought faces are financial of course and geographical. We work with vets, dog owners, trainers, and dogs all over the country, and Canada is a big country. We have to get everyone where they need to be for a match to work,” explained Cousineau.
The organization relies on corporate sponsorship initiatives, private donations and fundraising events to support programs. Individuals in the queue to be matched with a dog are also relying on social media and crowd funding campaigns to pay for their dog and its training costs.
Paws Fur Thought is a charity under the umbrella of the Nova Scotia Nunavut Command, Royal Canadian Legion. The mission of the organization is to match people battling serious mental health issues with trained service dogs. Based in Nova Scotia, run by volunteers, Paws Fur Thought responds to requests for dogs from across Canada. At present, 40 dogs have been placed with handlers and 20 more are in the process of being matched across the country.
For more information about Paws Fur Thought please visit their Facebook page: Paws-Fur-Thought
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