A Breslau-based charity which provides service dogs to those with mental health and psychiatric challenges is getting set for its biggest fundraiser of the year.
Partners with Paws will be holding several events next month in what it has coined “Pawtemeber.”
“September is the month of the service dog where it’s a worldwide acknowledgement of what service dogs can do. But also it is mental health and suicide prevention month. September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day,” said founder Jacqueline Gori.
Next month will see the charity host a weekly event starting with a crossfit challenge in Oakville on September 3. There will also be a dance challenge at the Waterloo Regional Police headquarters in Cambridge on September 10, a trail walk in Victoria Park (September 17) and pilates and yoga challenge at Breslau Public School (September 23). All are welcome to participate or donate.
The goal is to raise $75,000 for three dogs the charity currently has in training. As Partners with Paws has no other source of assistance, the public’s help is needed, Gori said.
She started Partners with Paws just over two years ago, inspired to do so because of her own struggles with mental illness.
“We’ve placed five dogs [so far]. So it’s been quite the journey, and it came about through my own diagnosis of PTSD and finding out that there really isn’t a lot of charities that provide psychiatric and mental health service dogs,” Gori explained
The dogs her charity provides do more than just provide companionship like an emotional support dog does, Gori siad.
“An emotional support dog doesn’t have public access. It cannot go everywhere with its owner. It can just be a pet that provides emotional support to the owner. We do not do those kinds of dogs. We do dogs that are trained in behavior interruption. So if I am picking at my skin, or if I’m scratching myself, or rocking is another [monitored] behavior,” she explained.
As each person with a service dog is different with unique needs, the behavior disruption can range from anything like putting their head or paw on the person’s leg to lying their full body on top of the person.
“They’re trained to detect when the owner is having a dissociative episode. That means that they’ve become overwhelmed and the brain kind of shuts down and goes to a different place. So the dog can tell that and then guide the person to an exit to get them out in the open so that they can get fresh air and quiet. That’s pretty amazing,” Gori said.
Having a mental health service dog can be life-changing, she added.
“One of our slogans is “our service dogs rebuild lives” because a lot of these people that received them, were not able to go out in public before and they were kind of trapped or they didn’t feel like they could participate in society. Once they receive a dog they’re able to go out and lead a normal life and contribute to society,” she said.
Because mental illness is often a lifelong struggle, Gori said the need for a dog is likely also a lifelong thing, as evidenced by her own experience. She’s got Samson there to help.
“Chances are I’ll never come off antidepressants, even though I have been through trauma counselling. Even though I am in a good spot emotionally I do have very bad triggers. I do have ups and downs. Unless there’s a magic pill that you can get rid of your past, I’m probably always going to have those triggers. The way I deal with them is very different now. Because Samson is there and he can detect it…with his help, I’m able to overcome them a lot quicker,” she said.
Along with the Pawtember fundraiser there is one key message that Gori is trying to send.
“I think we’re educating and acknowledging that there is such a mental health crisis and how these dogs can rebuild lives. That’s really the message. We know the world is suffering right now, but we can help you live with PTSD and not suffer from it,” she said.
To register to participate in the fundraiser visit www.partnerswithpaws.ca.