ASSISTANCE DOG IS A WA FIRST
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.”
Red heeler Gypsy with Tina Webster and Mr Barnett at the Sea View Golf Course last Friday.