AS­SIS­TANCE DOG IS A WA FIRST

Western Suburbs Weekly - - FRONT PAGE - By JON BAS­SETT

GYPSY the seven-month-old red heeler is WA’s first trained as­sis­tance dog for for­mer de­fence force and emer­gency ser­vice per­son­nel with post trau­matic stress dis­or­der (PTSD).

“She’ll be my con­stant com­pan­ion, so ev­ery­where I go, she’ll go, but the two years of train­ing doesn’t stop and in­cludes ba­sic and ad­vanced obe­di­ence, and pub­lic ac­cess train­ing,” Rockingham for­mer RAAF stew­ard, para­medic and PTSD suf­ferer Tina Web­ster (50) said.

Last Fri­day, Premier Colin Bar­nett sup­ported Gypsy, which has strict con­di­tions for its pub­lic life, and Ms Web­ster at Cottes­loe, af­ter the dog was sup­plied by one-yearold Queens­land-based PTSD char­ity Whiskey’s Wish.

In­ci­dences of PTSD will in­crease as more than 65,000 veter­ans from re­cent ac­tive ser­vice de­ploy­ments en­ter civil­ian life and con­di­tions for the dis­or­der are am­pli­fied by in­creased pres­sure on paramedics, po­lice and fire­fight­ers.

Ms Web­ster suf­fers PTSD from her air force and para­medic ser­vice and sec­ondary PTSD.

“I don’t like el­e­va­tors and large crowds, so Gypsy will pick up if I’m go­ing to have a panic at­tack by read­ing my body lan­guage,” she said.

The dog woke her up when she was hav­ing a night­mare last week.

PTSD as­sis­tance dogs cost $8500 be­fore they are placed with a com­pan­ion.

De­mand is great, with up to two re­quests for the an­i­mals each week to Whiskey’s Wish, which has sup­plied 18 dogs to other states’ and ter­ri­to­ries’ veter­ans.

“One North­ern Ter­ri­tory girl couldn’t leave the house, but since she’s had her dog she’s been able to go to the shops, med­i­cal ap­point­ments,” Whiskey’s Wish co-founder Mar­i­lyn Kench said.

Mr Bar­nett said the State Govern­ment could con­sider as­sist­ing the char­ity. He and his wife Lyn would make a per­sonal con­tri­bu­tion.

“My sup­port is par­tic­u­larly be­cause we are go­ing through the 100th an­niver­sary of Gal­lipoli, and be­ing aware of the ef­fect on peo­ple of serv­ing over­seas,” he said.

“In the past, we’d recog­nise the phys­i­cal in­juries caused by ser­vice, but now we recog­nise there is also the psy­cho­log­i­cal in­jury.”

Visit www.whiskeyswish.org.au.

Red heeler Gypsy with Tina Web­ster and Mr Bar­nett at the Sea View Golf Course last Fri­day.

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