16.12.2017
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03.12.2017

THIRD HERO’S COMPANION TRAINING MISSION A SUCCESS!

 Hero’s Companion is a project of the League of Ukrainian Canadians.  It aims to harness the power of the human-canine bond to heal invisible wounds of war.

 

 

 

Kalyna Kardash,

Project Director

 

        That’s a wrap!  Our third training mission has officially come to a successful end.  Thank you to everyone who made it possible: our donors, the League of Ukrainian Canadians – Oshawa Branch and the Ukrainian Canadian Veteran’s Fund; our Canadian trainers, RCMP Corporal Chris Lohnes and Canadian Special Forces veteran Marc Lapointe; Ukrainian trainers Maryna Prokopenko and Ksenia Khudik; HC Marketing and Communications Manager Yana Mikhnich (who helps with everything from translations to website upkeep and taking all of our photos and videos); all of our therapy dog volunteers; and of course, the veterans who have come into the program and entrusted us to help them in their rehabilitative journey!  Thank you also to the Institute of Medical Work, Academy of Medical Sciences of Ukraine (rehabilitation centre in Kyiv) and Spilka Samaritian Kinolohiv Ukrainy for allowing us to use their facilities. 

 

Therapy Dogs: Working with Veterans

        The first part of the training mission was comprised of two, three-day training seminars for our therapy dog volunteers.  These seminars were focused on building upon and advancing our therapy dog work with veterans in Ukraine.  Handlers were taught how train their dogs to perform interruptive behavior (i.e. to interrupt actions signalling anger, distress, physical or emotional pain, etc.), as well as activities which the therapy dogs can lead to help physical and psychological regulation and recovery.

        The majority of the therapy dog training took place at a rehabilitation centre in Kyiv at which we undertake weekly visits with veterans and former Prisoners of War (POWs).   This allowed us to do hands-on training and simultaneously educate the patients more about the program and how it can help them.  Over the 6 day training our therapy dogs and their handlers demonstrated their newly acquired skills in a variety of situations, from interventions to welcoming new patients.

 

Service Dogs: Building on our Base

 

        The second half of our September/October 2017 training mission focused on training and testing our Ukrainian service dog trainers, service dogs, and their paired veterans. To date there are 4 service dogs in our program: 2 are fully trained and certified (together with their veterans), and 2 are currently undergoing training together with their veteran pair.  In September we officially welcomed these 2 new participants to the program.  The first, Ruslan, is a veteran who, in addition to his diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, was severely injured by bullet and shrapnel wounds to his hips and left leg.  Ruslan has been paired with our newest service dog in training, Ursa.  The second, "Oleh" (name has been changed for security reasons), is a former POW who was severely tortured while in captivity.  Oleh is currently continuing his psychological rehabilitation in Kyiv, and will simultaneously be continuing training with service dog in training, Chief.  We are looking forward to working with both Ruslan and Oleh as they continue to learn, bond, and heal with their new canine companions!

 

Spotlight on: Veteran Sasha and Service Dog Deep

        Sasha and SD Deep are our very first fully trained, tested, and certified service dog team.  Sasha began training with Deep in February 2017, and was coached by Hero’s Companion service dog trainer Maryna Prokopenko.  “I've seen a big change in him from when we first started working together,” said Maryna, "He's much more put together now, his familial relations have improved, as well as his relations with others more generally.  He's also more motivated, and sets goals for himself." 

        Sasha served for 11 months in the ATO zone as a medic in the 58th brigade.  He first became acquainted with the Hero’s Companion program while undergoing rehabilitation at the Institute of Medical Work, Academy of Medical Sciences of Ukraine, where our therapy dogs visit on weekly basis.

        “[I took part in Hero's Companion because] I understood that I had to change something in my life.  I understood that I needed help," said Sasha while speaking about his experience with Deep and the program.  “When I was in the army I felt empty, when I came back I felt the same way.  The dog helps you not get lost in your worries and prevents painful emotions from coming back to the surface."

 

“I needed to regain trust in society and the dog helps a lot.  I was an absolutely different person before my dog came into my life.”

 

        Today Sasha and Deep can be found hiking in the forests near Kyiv, running errands at the local market, and working towards opening their own massage therapy practice.  After running into a few road blocks earlier, Sasha is determined to establish his own clinic, with the help of fellow veterans.

        Sasha also hopes to mentor new veterans in the service dog program, something he has already begun doing.  "Now that I've been helped and understand the process, I want to help others like me get better with their own service dogs."

 

If you are interested in supporting the continued work of Hero’s Companion,

please see their online donation page at http://heroscompanion.org or consider mailing a cheque made out to “Hero’s Companion”

to 9 Plastics Ave, Etobicoke ON, M8Z 4B6.  Donations can also be made at any Buduchnist Credit Union (account # 70882).

 

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