It has been three years since Medric Cousineau made the 1,065 km. journey that changed his life forever.
Inspired by the impact his service dog, Thai, made on his battle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Cousineau set out on a walk to raise awareness and funds for other veterans to receive service dogs.
“I needed to raise awareness somehow…part of my rehab had become walking my dog. So, doing the walk became almost synonymous to what was prescribed to help me get my head together,” said Cousineau.
In 1986, while serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force, Couinseau conducted a daring air sea and rescue mission. The mission resulted in Cousineau receiving the Star of Courage award along with a decades long battle against PTSD.
Cousineau finally began to receive some respite from his illness after receiving his service dog Thai, some 26 years later.
“Within a few months she had made such a dramatic change in my life that my wife and I decided we had to get other people the same kind of help that I had gotten,” recalled Cousineau.
From his experience, Cousineau realized that many other veterans either couldn’t afford service dogs or didn’t even know that this kind of treatment was out there.
Cousineau enlisted the help of the Nova Scotia Nunavut Royal Canadian Legion and set out on his 50 day walk from Eastern Passage, NS to Ottawa, On to raise awareness and funds.
Every day, Cousineau walked the distance of half a marathon and told his story along the way. The walk was no piece of cake as Cousineau fought against the heat and humidity all while pushing a pet stroller that weighed nearly 110 lbs. for the many days when it was too hot for Thai to walk on the pavement.
On Sept. 19, Couisneau finally reached Memorial Hall at the Canadian War Museum. Though the journey had its ups and downs, it was one that changed his life forever and transformed him into a public figure.
“A lot of changes happened out there we garnered a lot of support,’ stated Cousineau.
Since that time, he’s officially launched his organization Paws Fur Thought; met with the Minister of Veterans Affairs that led to the development of National Standards for Service Dogs, Legislation for Service Dogs in Nova Scotia, and placed dogs in the Veterans Affairs Canada efficacy study; and he even released a book entitled Further Than Yesterday, That’s All that Counts.
Through Paws Fur Thought, Cousineau and his wife Jocelyn have paired 61 veterans with service dogs.
Additionally, Wounded Warriors Canada recently announced a partnership of $175,000 dogs over the next three years that will help Paws Fur Thought acquire more than 30 dogs.
“When you’ve been on that very dark edge and you get a chance to be pulled away from it and you realize you don’t have to go back there, you don’t want anyone else going there either,” noted Cousineau.
It’s a “labour of love” for Cousineau and his volunteers but the job comes with its share of challenges. Paws Fur Thought has to sift through organizations who aren’t properly training service dogs and then having to wait up to two years for a service dog from accredited schools.
As Cousineau looks to the future and his work with Paws Fur Thought, he tells those, whose shoes he was once in, to reach out for help.
“For those that are struggling with PTSD, don’t give up. Reach out, talk to somebody, anybody don’t make a terminally irreversible decision. Just keep calm and walk the dog,” said Cousineau.
To donate or learn more about Paws Fur Thought visit their website (http://www.pawsfurthought.com).