Former N.B. deputy chief coroner launches PTSD service dog mentoring program
New Brunswick’s former deputy chief coroner has a new calling in life.
Brian Brown is helping people suffering from PTSD train their own pets to become service dogs through a program he developed called the Canine Assistance Program.
“I knew that a service dog was the thing that helped me. I had been a prisoner in my own home for a couple of years and when I found River, we were matched together, and I was able to go out and do things that I hadn’t before,” he said.
Brown says he had been suffering from debilitating symptoms of PTSD since 2015, when he left his job on medical leave. Seeing how his service dog changed his life, he set out to help others who might be suffering in silence.
Though his mentoring program, Brown is helping comrades who also suffer from PTSD train their own pets to become service dogs. Many of the people in his program are retired veterans suffering from PTSD, who had been waiting for years to get a dog through a formal organization.
“The wait list is three or four years long. In the meantime, we are losing members and civilians due to wait lists,” he said.
In Canada, the law allows for people to self-train their own service dogs. But Brown says it takes a dog with a certain kind of temperament to qualify.
“We might have dogs that are not well suited and so we wanted to ensure that we had some guidance,” he said.
That is why Brown is acting as a mentor and is being guided by the teachings of a master trainer from Nova Scotia.
WATCH: Alberta man takes his dog on cross Canada journey to raise PTSD awareness
He hopes to one day becomes a master trainer himself and that a national set of standards and a national certification process will be developed for people training their own pets.
Allan Marsh is a retired army veteran who also suffers from PTSD. He believes that his dog, Hank, has just the right temperament for the job.
“I had an anxiety attack and he was just all over me, picking up on every one of my indications,” Marsh said.
Brown says the dogs are being trained to use affection as a distraction.
“So they smell the anxiety that we emit when we are anxious.” said Brown.
“It is hard to be angry and frustrated when you’ve got a dog licking your face and they want hugs and kisses.”
Since New Brunswick doesn’t require service dog certification, Brown says the roughly 20 dogs in his group will eventually be certified in Nova Scotia where it became law about a year ago.
WATCH: Canadian veteran explains the benefits of a service dog
Brown points out that this group is not just about dog training. Ongoing support for people suffering from PTSD is key to the program’s success.
“The real magic of the program is the peer support,” he said.
© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.