Operation K9 – the RSL’s assistance dog initiative for veterans afflicted with post-traumatic stress and anxiety disorders – has celebrated its second graduating class. Five dogs, and their equally well trained new owners, received their diplomas after intensive instruction from the Royal Society for the Blind (RSB) training team.
It’s an expensive enterprise, made possible by public donations and by sponsorship from two defence technology companies: Saab Australia and Daronmont Technologies. In addition, a number of Sub-branches and supporter groups have chosen Operation K9 as their major fundraising objective of the moment.
At last Friday’s graduation ceremony, a cheque for $25,000 (the total cost of training just one dog) was presented by a 2015 graduate, Major Peter Checkley. He and his wife Jenny, travelling with assistance dog Ruby, raised the money through a vigorous interstate promotional campaign.
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.
“Operation K9 is a tangible demonstration of what the RSL does in caring for returned service people,” says the Chief Executive of the RSL (SA/NT), Julia Langrehr. “It’s our way of giving back to those who have given so much for us. 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.”
As the RSL puts it: dogs have been trained to help people who cannot see – now, some are being trained to help those who have seen too much. Pictured above are Dusty Goodluck & Isaac; Jace Falkenberg & Verdi; Brendan Larkin & Watson; Sam Hooper & Wallace; and a RSB volunteer with Valour.