When a former RCMP officer was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), he didn’t know where to turn.
Tim Martin, who lives in Grand Forks, suffers from nightmares and anxiety issues around people that often make it difficult for him to function in public. After years of dealing with traumatic experiences as a police officer, Martin found the transition to regular life after retirement to be difficult.
Enter Hunter, a one-year-old chocolate Labrador from the Pet Adoption and Welfare Society (PAWS) in Creston. Right now, Hunter is your typical adorable, energetic puppy that likes to chew everything in sight but with training, he will develop into a helpful service dog.
“I retired after 26 years with the RCMP,” said Martin. “Partly because I was a crash investigator and saw many incidents during my service. I suffer from PTSD and as such Hunter is going to be my service dog to help me cope with the stressors and anxiety issues.”
Citadel Canine Society, a non-profit group that arranges for PTSD service dogs to new military veterans and first responders, helped find and deliver Hunter.
“I struggle with crowded rooms and dark places, so Hunter is going to allow me access to different places in town and be a buffer so I can cope,” he added.
Martin said dogs have been used for a long time for military veterans with PTSD but for first responders such as police officers, firefighters and ambulance attendants, it’s relatively new. “They’re just starting to recognize that first responders also suffer from post traumatic stress because of the nature of their job.”
Martin got the dog on June 20 and the training process has already begun. “He and I have a lot of work ahead of us to train each other, to interact,” he said.
Helping to train Hunter to become a service is local dog trainer Kathy Novokshonoff.
“I was contacted by the trainer in Creston and asked if I would help,” said Novokshonoff. “Tim and I know each other and he asked if I could help train his dog.”
She said a lot of the training work is actually done by the owner of the dog.
“My job is to help him train what the dog needs to know—mostly manners and some other special skills like being able to ignore people, not taking food from people,” said Novokshonoff.
Although she has trained many dogs, Hunter will be the first service dog Novokshonoff has trained. She’s volunteering her time.
“I think any dog working with (people with) PTSD is an excellent idea,” she said. “It’s a way that people who are uncomfortable in situations can relate to other people. I think dogs give people comfort as well.”
Novokshonoff said that Labradors are perfect dogs for training. “They’re easy to train and full of life,” she said. “They can be lots of fun.”
However, she does warn that Tim will have lots of work to do to get Hunter up to speed as a service dog.
Martin said that businesses in the community have so far been very cooperative and encouraging when he has gone out with Hunter. He also reminds people that they should not pet the dog when he has the special service dog bib on.