You've heard the saying "Dog is Man's Best Friend. " Within the Ottawa Police Department, a new grassroots program is proving rescued dogs can be a lifeline for officers and other first responders suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
It all started when Andrew Hammond, an Ottawa Police Officer with severe PTSD met a German Shepherd named Ruby.
Ruby is not a professionally trained Service Dog. Andrew had researched those, and discovered that a cost of 20 thousand dollars such an animal was out of reach. So he contacted Debra Scharf, a local dog lover, part time breeder and dog trainer in the hopes she could help in some way.
Debra, Andrew Hammond and fellow Police Constable Cameron Downie have teamed up to create Centurion K9. Debra and some of her friends scour animal shelters in Quebec looking for canine companions with the right stuff to be paired with a human. So far they have rescued three German Shepherds that are now in training. Each week the dogs and humans are put through skills training at the Ottawa Police Professional Training facility at Algonquin College.
It's just one example of how first responders are like family. They never forget those who have been lost in the line of duty, and now this effort has been launched to help members who are suffering because of trauma on the job. Police management and the Police Union are supporting this grassroots program. It's in its infancy, but there is real excitement about its potential to help PTSD sufferers who can't afford a professionally trained service dog, Andrew Hammond knows his dog Ruby is bringing him out of darkness and back into the light. His wife Anna is grateful.
Centurion K9 is self funded right now. Donations of leases and collars, anything a rescued dog would need, is being welcomed. The organization is also considering finding sponsors for each service canine. All rescued Shepherds go into foster care in the hopes they have the traits that will mean a new leash on life; for the dog, and for a waiting first responder with PTSD.
For more information: www.centurionK9.com
****On a personal note: I had such fun shooting this story, I wanted you to see the less serious side of these beautiful, intelligent dogs, whose fate was changed by animal lovers who knew they just needed another chance. Enjoy. CAM