Operation K9 – the RSL’s assistance dog initiative for veterans afflicted with post-traumatic stress and anxiety disorders – is growing fast. Eight dogs, and their equally well trained new owners, are graduating after intensive instruction from the Royal Society for the Blind (RSB) team.
It’s an expensive enterprise, made possible by public donations and by sponsorship from two defence technology companies: Saab Australia and Daronmont Technologies. Each assistance dog costs $25,000 for training, veterinary costs and food for life.
“Operation K9 is a tangible demonstration of what the RSL does in caring for returned service people,” says the chief executive officer of the RSL (SA/NT), Julia Langrehr. “It’s our way of giving back to those who have given so much for us, and we hope to extend the program to other RSLs across Australia in due course. The feedback from clients is that the dogs have fundamentally changed their lives and the lives of their families, to the point where they can’t begin to imagine what life was like before the dogs arrived – or what it would be like without them.”
The dogs’ skills – instilled by RSB expertise – are remarkable. They can even be trained to switch on a light when a veteran is experiencing a nightmare. Dogs have, for decades, been trained to help people who cannot see. Now, some are being trained to help those who have seen too much.
WHAT : Assistance dogs for military veterans graduation ceremony
WHEN : 12 mid-day, Thursday, December 10
WHERE : Drill Hall, Torrens Parade Ground, Victoria Drive, Adelaide
CONTACT : Darren Adamson (RSL SA)
Operation K9 fact sheet
- Potential clients are identified by the RSL in consultation with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA). More than 28,000 DVA clients are recognised as living with a stress disorder.
- Assistance dogs are given access rights to all public places and transport services, with the exception of certain hospital wards (notably burns units) and zoos (for quarantine reasons). The dogs are generally able to work for nine years.
- Not all recipients of assistance dogs are willing to have their names published. However, at least four members of the graduating class have given the RSL permission to be identified: Mary Cook (and her dog, Roxy); Greg Hopgood (and Reilly); Luke Adamson (and Prince); Trevor Shinnick (and Sophie).