Mak­ing a dif­fer­ence

New Glas­gow vet­eran get­ting sup­port for PTSD, health is­sues from ser­vice dog.

The News (New Glasgow) - - FRONT PAGE - BY ADAM MACINNIS

Jacket off, Milo is a fun-lov­ing, 14-month-old Ger­man shep­herd. Jacket on, he’s all duty.

New Glas­gow res­i­dent Ron Wray suf­fers from post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der from his time in the mil­i­tary, has se­vere arthri­tis, which im­pacts his mo­bil­ity and also has di­a­betes. But since Milo came into his life about two weeks ago, he has some­one to help with all of those is­sues.

Al­ready, Wray has ex­pe­ri­enced a dif­fer­ence. Within the first two weeks of hav­ing him, Milo had al­ready alerted him twice that his sug­ars were low. Milo can de­tect this by lick­ing Wray’s hand or smelling his breath.

“The first time it hap­pened, I was ac­tu­ally still in bed and he woke me up from a dead sleep. My sug­ars were down to 2.6,” Wray said.

If he is hav­ing trou­ble get­ting up be­cause of his arthri­tis, Milo has been trained to of­fer as­sis­tance. Wray is able to grab a spe­cial har­ness that Milo wears to pull him­self up.

As for his PTSD symp­toms, Milo pro­vides com­fort and se­cu­rity.

“A cou­ple (of the) big­gest is­sues for me is go­ing out in pub­lic. I don’t do that well. I don’t do nighttime and dark.”

A long road

The process of pair­ing the two be­gan al­most two and a half years ago — over a year be­fore Milo was even born. Wray ap­plied for the dog through an or­ga­ni­za­tion called Paws Fur Thought, which helps pro­vide ser­vice dogs to those who have served in the mil­i­tary or as first re­spon­ders and suf­fer from PTSD. The pro­gram is run by vol­un­teers and op­er­ates through do­na­tions. The Royal Cana­dian Le­gion is one of the big­gest con­trib­u­tors and a por­tion of the poppy cam­paign funds from le­gions are al­lo­cated to­ward the or­ga­ni­za­tion. The Tren­ton Le­gion, of which Wray is a mem­ber, also con­trib­uted di­rectly to help Wray by pro­vid­ing money to help cover ex­penses as­so­ci­ated with the dog, such as a ken­nel and ve­teri­nary costs.

Milo’s jour­ney be­gan south of the bor­der, in Kansas. For the first six months of his life, he ac­tu­ally lived in a jail, paired with an in­mate. A pro­gram in that state al­lows in­mates to train ser­vice dogs in the ba­sics, like go­ing to the bath­room.

From there, the dogs then go to a foster home for six months be­fore be­ing sent to a train­ing fa­cil­ity op­er­ated by CARES to be specif­i­cally trained for the needs of the per­son they will be paired with. In Milo’s case, he was specif­i­cally trained to meet the needs that Wray had.

For his part, Wray had to go through a back­ground screen­ing and talk to the or­ga­ni­za­tion about his spe­cific re­quire­ments. Then he flew to Kansas for a week where he and Milo spent the en­tire time — day and night — to­gether at the train­ing fa­cil­ity.

“First thing Mon­day morn­ing, you get in­tro­duced to your dog and the train­ing starts. The dog stays with you the whole week.”

All week, Milo wore the vest. All week, he was on duty.

“What I found when I first got him is he was like a robot,” he said. “He had no per­son­al­ity or any­thing. It was just like, ‘What do you want me to do?’”

Slowly, though, as the week pro­gressed, he saw the per­son­al­ity come out and the bond be­gan to de­velop.

Strong bond

Now that he has Milo home, Wray is try­ing to find a bal­ance of when to have Milo on-duty and when to have him off-duty. So far, he’s re­ally pleased with how it’s all worked out and loves the com­pan­ion­ship of the dog and his loy­alty.

“They give you so much and they ask for so lit­tle.”

He hopes that by telling his story that other vet­er­ans who have PTSD or other dis­abil­i­ties will be en­cour­aged to reach out to their lo­cal le­gion or Paws Fur Thought to find out more.

Heidi Boyles, pres­i­dent of the Tren­ton Le­gion, said the le­gion was happy to be able to help make this hap­pen in Wray’s sit­u­a­tion.

“If it wasn’t for our vet­er­ans we wouldn’t be here. We have them to thank for our free­dom.”

She hopes that knowl­edge that funds go to help vet­er­ans like Wray will en­cour­age area res­i­dents to do­nate to this year’s poppy cam­paign so the le­gion can con­tinue to of­fer sup­port through pro­grams like this one.

ADAM MACINNIS/THE NEWS

Tren­ton Le­gion pres­i­dent Heidi Boyles said the le­gion was happy to be able to help with the process of get­ting a ser­vice dog for Ron Wray. They are pic­tured here with Milo, a Ger­man shep­herd that has been trained to help Wray with PTSD, mo­bil­ity and to alert him when his blood sugar is low.

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