We all have our days where we just don’t feel great, we are sad, we are angry, we are stressed, anxious or overwhelmed and when we do feel like this, our dog has an uncanny way of picking up on it and coming to our needs to comfort us.
Now imagine if your life was like this, every day, every hour, every year and then multiply this by 100. For some people a bad day can be debilitating and so stressful that you don’t leave home, you don’t speak to anyone and you suffer in silence.
An amazing woman named Cath suffered for years with her own mental health disorder and she found that when she was in a bad state, her own dog would somehow pull her through, just by being there. This was great when she was home but when she needed to go out to perform even basic chores like groceries, it was super tough. So she searched and searched for an organisation to help out but it did not exist. She eventually got her dog accredited independently so he could go everywhere with her, just like a Guide Dog or Assistant Dog and he is there for her, all the time no matter where she goes.
It was from here that Cath decided that if no organisation existed, that she create one and in 2011 mindDog Australia was born. This is what they stand for!
mindDog assists mental health sufferers to procure, train and certify psychiatric service dogs. These dogs assist people with mental health disorders whose lives are often severely compromised by anxiety and fear. With their mindDog they are able to travel on public transport, access public places and take part in social activities which have been closed off to them.
mindDog was established in 2011 by a small group of volunteers, all professionals in their own fields, who identified an area of need. Many people who live with mental health disorders find the world to be a difficult place. A mindDog can provide practical and emotional support. People with depression, anxiety or agoraphobia can find that a mindDog allows them to leave the house, exercise, and take their meds on time or something as simple as going to the shops. A mindDog can provide support and comfort during a panic attack, a reality check with Post Traumatic Stress flashbacks.
mindDog is run by a small group of volunteers who travel the country to assess dogs and owners in the hope that the pair can work towards their accreditation, opening up the door to the world. They then pair the team up with an accredited Delta Trainer closest to them and are then given 12 months to work on various skills leading up to the Public Access Test. While they don’t have to alert to red lights or dodge objects on the ground, what these dogs can do is breathtaking. They simply offer support, their shoulder to literally lean on, their ear to listen, their body to hug and their fur to hold and their eyes to gaze into their beautiful soles and not once do these dogs complain or judge. They just sit it out and wait until their owner is okay and then life goes on.
I have had the privilege to work with some mindDog candidates in the last year, training their dogs with them towards their PAT assessment and it has been one of the most rewarding parts of my career. Training these dogs to perform and to then take it to a public level is a challenge but a great one. These dogs have to cope with being on trains, buses, elevators and more and then also handle walking through supermarkets, waiting patiently in the library or doctor’s clinic and sitting outside a cubicle or public toilet while the owner is busy. They need to cope with crowds, noise, traffic and need to solely focus on their owner. They cannot elicit pats from people or take food from anyone, they cannot steal food off shelves and they have to be on their best behaviour, all the time. Quite often they have to move slowly and sometimes even stop because their owner needs a moment and this is what we train these dogs to do. What amazes me even more is that these dogs just seem to get it, they seem to know they are here for a special purpose.
The dogs that we work with have a variety of backgrounds from being shelter dogs to purpose bred and they are all different breeds, sizes and ages. They do need to be reasonably confident and enjoy working with people and if we have that combination, we are good to go.
I believe mindDog has the power to help so many people and to change their lives and to do this we need funding so if you would like to help, please Donate Now and help this amazing cause.
Point Cook Dog Training & Day Care proudly supports and sponsors mindDog Australia.
Thank you for your donations!