‘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
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