KALAMUNDA and High Wycombe shoppers have dug deep to support war veterans affected by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Retired Major General Peter Checkley was in the area last Thursday raising awareness of a training program for dogs to provide assistance and companionship to returned soldiers.
Checkley (61) was the first Australian returned soldier with combat PTSD to receive a dog through Operation K9, an initiative between Returned Servicemen League (RSL) and the Royal Society for the Blind.
He suffered traumatic brain injury in Afghanistan and medically retired after serving 20 years in the Royal Australian Infantry and Royal Australian Ordinance Corps and 25 years as a British Royal Marine Commando.
The arrival of Ruby three years ago transformed his life and he became an ambassador for the program.
“Ruby has such a loving temperament and provides a lot of comfort,” he said.
“While her affection is hugely important to me, another hidden benefit is that she also allows me to act independently.”
The highly trained Labrador wakes her owner and turns on the lights when he has a seizure.
Checkley said support dogs undergo a two-year training program to meet the needs of their owner and their domestic support may even include learning to load a washing machine.
“My wife Jennifer doesn’t have to worry when I leave the house, even when I am visiting someplace busy, which can be difficult sometimes for people suffering PTSD,” he said.
“I’m really motivated to see another retired soldier receive the same love and support that I have received.”
The veteran is on a road trip with his wife to raise awareness of the program, which is his way of giving back to the two organisations that helped change his life.
“Ruby arrived just before my 59th birthday and she saved my life, saved my marriage.”
Last year, Checkley raised $25,000 for the first support dog in WA and about 70 per cent of the funds came from donations made in IGA stores.
His target this year is to double that amount to cover the cost of two dogs, their training, food and vet bills for the duration of their lives.
High Wycombe SUPA IGA owner Matt Pham said the program was a fantastic cause.
“Being part of the community we try and support as many local initiatives as we can and Peter has such an amazing story,” he said.
“We’re all thrilled to be lending a helping hand.”
Checkley has raised more than $13,000 so far and donations can be made online at rslsa.org.au/operation-k9.