As­sis­tance project wel­comed

Alpine Observer - - Front Page - By ALEX CRAIG

A RE­TURNED ser­vice­man liv­ing in the Kiewa Val­ley has wel­comed the news that Min­is­ter for Vet­er­ans’ Af­fairs Dar­ren Ch­ester has an­nounced a $2 mil­lion in­no­va­tive trial of as­sis­tance dogs for vet­er­ans with scep­ti­cism.

The Depart­ment of Vet­er­ans’ Af­fairs plans to part­ner with La­trobe Univer­sity to un­der­take the trial of as­sis­tance dogs for vet­er­ans with PTSD as a sup­ple­ment to clin­i­cal treat­ment, some­thing Afghanistan vet­eran Joshua New said was a pos­i­tive move.

“It’s good that they are putting money into project’s like this al­though it is sim­i­lar to ones al­ready out there, be­ing run by var­i­ous or­gan­i­sa­tions,” Mr New said.

“Lucky came to me at the right time to help me deal with his PTSD, and help me take up fam­ily life again and re-en­ter so­ci­ety.”

The new trial will be a con­sid­ered process that takes into ac­count the spe­cific needs of the par­tic­i­pat­ing vet­eran - such as de­ter­min­ing the most ap­pro­pri­ate breed and tem­per­a­ment of dog, and the bond­ing process be­tween the dog and par­tic­i­pant.

Mr New ob­tained his as­sis­tance dog Lucky in 2015 through De­fence Com­mu­nity Dogs, which is sup­ported by the De­fence Bank.

Most of the dogs in the pro­gram are trained at the Bathurst Cor­rec­tional Cen­tre by in­mates un­der the guid­ance of lead­ing dog train­ers.

Mr New him­self showed his sup­port for the ini­tia­tive by or­gan­is­ing a ma­jor fundrais­ing and rais­ing al­most $48,000 to train hun­dreds more as­sis­tance dogs.

Mr New said he also hopes to see more done to teach the pub­lic about PTSD and how im­por­tant as­sis­tance dogs are to their own­ers af­ter a re­cent in­ci­dent where Lucky was de­nied ac­cess in a taxi.

Even though Lucky was wear­ing his work­ing vest and Mr New said he was car­ry­ing the right iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, it was an episode that has made him feel as though he can no longer use Lucky as an as­sis­tance dog.

“That ex­pe­ri­ence brought on such a level of anx­i­ety about hav­ing to jus­tify hav­ing an as­sis­tance dog,” he said.

“I can no longer use him as an as­sis­tance dog be­cause I feel that ev­ery­one is go­ing to ques­tion me about my con­di­tion.

“The end re­sult is I am hav­ing to have reg­u­lar ECT treat­ments to main­tain my equi­lib­rium.

“Money needs to be spent sup­port­ing ex­ist­ing pro­grams and on ed­u­cat­ing the pub­lic about the im­por­tance of as­sis­tance dogs and mak­ing sure that the rules ap­ply­ing to sight and hear­ing as­sis­tance dogs also ap­ply to other as­sis­tance dogs.”

PHOTO: Alex Craig

BEST FRIEND: Ta­wonga’s Joshua New with his beloved pet and as­sis­tance dog, Lucky.

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