Our Service Dogs

November 9th 2014

“Let us not forget our service dogs and their commitment to us. The touching story of Thai and retired captain Cousineau.”

Background: Captain Retd “Cous” Cousineau SC, CD, was injured while on active duty hundreds of miles of the Newfoundland Coast in 1986 while involved in the rescue of two American Sword fishermen that resulted in his injuries. The ensuing 26 plus years have resulted in some serious Mental Health issues. His family credits his recent vast improvements to his service dog, Thai.

In August of 2012, Cous was paired with his new partner in Concordia Kansas, in a Program called CARES, Canine Assistance and Rehabilitation Education services, where the dogs where bred, born, puppy raised and trained by a cadre of dedicated volunteers. Perhaps the single most important event, was meeting the prisoner who had spent six and a half month training Thai to prepare fo her upcoming role as a service dog.

Upon completion of training and certification, their public access test and a few months of intensive public training, Thai and “Cous” appear in public, to continue to advocate for service dogs for veterans battling horrible injuries sustained in the line of duty. Many of these injuries are invisible and carry huge stigma.

Long Walk to Sanity: Upon returning home, the team continued their training via a series of ever increasing Long walks, hundreds of Kilometers, that eventually climbed up over a 1,000 kms. The idea to use these walks to raise public awareness and funds to help other veterans was launched on a Long walk with Thai and my supportive spouse Jocelyn in early January. Also instrumental in his recovery was the assistance and friendship of Brenda Andersen and her guide dog, Noble. Though the Long walk is a daunting challenge, it pales in comparison to the battles that Mental Health issues pose within society and the veteran’s communities. Paws Fur Thought: This awareness and Fundraising walk begins 1 Aug 2013 and will continue for the next 50 days averaging a half marathon a day during that time, ending in Ottawa 19 Sep 2013. The route will encompass 2 major legs. The first from Shearwater, thru to the Naval Memorial in Point Pleasant Park and then on to Gagetown NB. Rest and travel days will result in the the Second leg starting at Sunnybrook Veterans Memorial Hospital in Toronto and will proceed to Ottawa via Newmarket, Peterborough, Marmora, Trenton, Belleville, Kingston and Smiths Falls. At this time, the Canadian Army Veterans Riding Club, 83 units strong and 4800 plus members will be supporting the Walk. Funds will be raised thru 3 sources, “Dogs for Dogs” bbq’s, Dog tag sales, and donations. Via a series of public awareness lectures and distribution of awareness materials, my goal is to raise the money for “50 Dogs in 50 Days for 50 veterans.” , in support of Service, Therapy and other canine assistance in the treatment of Veterans Mental health. I would like it if it spreads, throughout the country.

Upon completion of the walk, “Cous” hopes to have recruited a team of volunteers that will be able to carry the torch, while returning home, to “Keep Calm and Walk the Dog”, pursuing hobbies of photography, reading, gardening , motorcycling and playing the occasional bridge game. The team will be attempting to establish an accurate butterfly count in the surrounding hills to continue to work on Cous’s mental health. Both projects are anticipated to take years to complete.

As part of the teams training the Bluenose Half Marathon on the 19th of May will be a public training session for Cous, Brenda and their dogs. This fund raising and awareness initiative will be used to fund the long walk and anything left on our shoe string budget will be added to the funds, to help others acquire service dogs and continue their own personal “Long walks to Sanity. “

Thai was made possible thru the Royal Canadain Legion Poppy fund, specifically Branch 164 in Eastern Passage. To all those who helped me acquire “Thai” thank you.

Conatact info: Cous and Thai can be reached for comment via email at seadawgpirate@eastlink.ca.

CARES: CEO. Sarah Holbert, can be contacted at cares.ks@sbcglobal.net

Article from Paws Fur Thought

Image from Canadian Service Dog Foundation

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