Dog assists former soldier’s trauma battles

Former SAS soldier Richard Doorne and assistance dog Gar.
Former SAS soldier Richard Doorne and assistance dog Gar.

A FORMER soldier has driven from Perth to Sydney to pick up a furry companion as he battles through mental illness.

Ex-Special Air Service Regiment soldier Richard Doorne was doing a trauma recovery course at Hollywood hospital a couple of years ago when he heard about assistance animals.

“I’ve been trying so many times to get myself back into some sort of self-regulation and normality but seemed to be going around in circles,” he said.

The Merriwa resident said he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after 22 years in the Australian army and was trying to get his life back on track.

Mr Doorne was doing a trauma recovery course at Hollywood hospital a couple of years ago when he heard about assistance animals.

Mr Doorne drove to Sydney for a training course and to pick up his assistance dog, a Labrador named Gar, in the middle of June.

Although Mr Doorne has only had Gar for six weeks, he said it has been a life-changer and Gar has settled in his new routine.

“Typically when you have PTSD you don’t want people in your life but he’s sort of changed that,” he said.

“He gives me the opportunity to live a semi-normal life and to be part of community instead of shutting myself away.”

“I’m very aware of where I am and he chills me out, I can relax a bit more.”

Although Mr Doorne only had Gar for six weeks, he said Gar has settled in his new routine.

Assistance dogs are trained for two years to be qualified to assist people with physical disabilities or living with autism or PTSD.

For International Assistance Dog Week last week, Mr Doorne said he wanted to raise the profile on Assistance Dogs Australia, which relied on donations.

“If I go to a hospital, it can cost $1000 a day for me to be in hospital,” he said.

“For me to have Gar, it’s costing me $2000 a year.”

PETstock and PETstock Assist have been supporting ADA for six years, including through donations from PETstock’s workplace giving program.

“The work assistance dogs do and the difference they make to their human’s life is remarkable,” PETstock Assist charity coordinator Jessica Guilfoyle said.

“However, ADA rely purely on donations from the public to fund the training, care and placement of assistance dogs.”

Read more success stories here.

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