Beau Gives Me A Reason To Get Out Of Bed
I joined the RLC (Royal Logistic Corp) more or less straight from school as a dopey 16 year old lad from sunny Bradford. After training I saw service over the next 22 years in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq. It was from my last tour of Iraq in 2006 that my problems stemmed. A number of incidents occurred during my 7 months there that I never properly addressed, the main one being a roadside bomb that really left its mark psychologically for years to come.
I left the Army in 2011 and joined Sussex Police, working in the control room but I soon began to struggle with my mental health – I suffered from insomnia and was constantly agitated and unable to settle. I put this down to weakness and told myself to “man up” as I’d always done. But every time I closed my eyes, I saw the bomb go off again. After finally telling my sister Kirsty and her husband Painy – a nurse and doctor respectively – I agreed to get help and was diagnosed with Complex PTSD. This is a diagnosis made for adults or children who have repeatedly experienced traumatic events such as violence, neglect or abuse.
Sussex Police were very supportive. One day, in March 2020, I was having a meeting about my PTSD with my line manager and on the wall behind us was an advert for Service Dogs UK – a charity that trains assistance dogs to support members of the Armed Forces and Emergency Services who have PTSD. I applied and was accepted.
We began in July 2020, first meeting the trainers, dog fosterers, Veterans who have passed their dog training as well as others new to the course. Straight away I found being among people who were experiencing the same problems as my myself was extremely reassuring.
We met twice a week at Radford Park in Liphook and we each worked with a different dog to see which one we bonded with best. I learnt about dog handling skills, training methods and teaching strategies, as well as what motivates a dog to work and think for themselves.
SDUK ordinarily gets its dogs from Dog Trust, but Beau, a 2-year old black Labrador, was a ‘failed’ security dog who was handed in to a small rescue centre called Molly’s Sanctuary. The head of the centre contacted SDUK as they were aware of the great work it did. Beau was assessed as a suitable candidate dog and was accepted onto the programme in August 2020. We bonded straight away and Beau was anything but a ‘failure’.
The PTSD dogs are trained to deal with nightmares, anxiety attacks, zoning out and flashbacks, as well as tasks specific to each Veteran, like bringing your phone or opening cupboards for you. The training is gradual over nine months and the trainers and foster carers are with you every step of the way, giving you all the help you need for your partnership to be a success. The process of training and gaining accreditation gave me something to aim for and passing the course has been one of my greatest achievements.
Beau is my best friend, and is with me day and night. PTSD strips you of your self-esteem and self-worth, but Beau gives me a reason to get out of bed in the morning. He gives me the focus I need to get out and meet people.
When I see my therapist and I’m crying, Beau comes straight over to comfort me and if things are really emotional, I tap my chest and he jumps into my arms and lays his head on my shoulder. His needs also motivate me and I can’t remember life without him.
I’m still in treatment and have a long way to go, but with Beau by my side, I know I will get there.
With support from the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust’s “4 Paws 4 Veterans” programme.