Pets and Pals: Courageous Companions help veterans overcome PTSD

WINNIPEG — For many people, their dog is a family pet, but for dozens of veterans they are guardian angels.

Courageous Companions is a made-in-Manitoba program receiving major recognition for helping place highly trained service dogs with veterans and soldiers who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“We (have) guys that were taking 25 to 30 medications down to three, four or five,” said master trainer George Leonard. “We had people that built bunkers in their basement that were living there for a year that came out and went back to work. We had people that had multiple suicide attempts that are now not trying to kill themselves and their families are back together.”

Tyson King served two tours in Bosnia and his PTSD retriggered in April.

When it happened, he said he could no longer walk on grass without getting down on his hands and knees and searching for live ammunition and making sure it was safe.

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“Most of me knew that it was safe, but one part of me didn’t,” said King.

Winnipeg is the training hub for the program. Everyone who enters must come to the Prairies to train and get certified through Leonard.

“I need to see how stressed (they) are and what level of training I need to put into the dog to make sure (they) are going to be safe in public,” he said.

Leonard and his team has helped to train more than 100 service dogs, with dozens more in training.

There is currently a wait list for the program.

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