‘I tried to com­mit sui­cide twice. I won’t do that with Irma’

HOW BRAVEHOUNDS ARE TRANS­FORM­ING THE LIVES OF EX-SOL­DIERS TRAU­MA­TISED BY WAR

The Herald Magazine - - REAL LIFE -

IWAS in a coma for a while, which wasn’t very nice,” says Paul Wilkie. He re­flects for a mo­ment, then grins, en­joy­ing the ab­sur­dity. “Not that I knew if it was nice or no’, ’cause I was in a coma...”

That Wilkie can smile about it is per­haps sur­pris­ing: he was in the coma be­cause he suf­fered post-trau­matic stress disor­der (PTSD) af­ter 22 years in the Royal En­gi­neers. That he’s here at all, he says, is down to a bouncy, loyal, hand­some springer spaniel called Irma.

She was the first Brave­hound sup­plied by a small char­ity of that name based at Ersk­ine, on the Clyde west of Ren­frew. It pro­vides dogs for peo­ple such as Wilkie who have suf­fered men­tal tor­ment as a re­sult of ser­vice in the armed forces.

Even Fiona Mac­Don­ald, the char­ity’s founder, ad­mits she does not know quite how the dogs help, but Wilkie sums it up when he says: “I tried to com­mit sui­cide twice be­fore. I won’t do that with Irma.”

Mac­Don­ald is an opera singer by

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