People Behind the Pets showcases specific members of the animal community who have amazing stories to share. Today we are featuring Medric Cousineau, a retired member of the Canadian Armed Forces and co-founder of Paws Fur Thought, an initiative that fundraises and advocates to pair disabled veterans with Service Dogs.
Service Dogs are specially trained to help people who have disabilities, such as visual or hearing impairments, post-traumatic stress disorder and mobility impairment. Their incredible commitment and training play a remarkable role in helping their human partners to live with their disabilities.
In 1986, Medric Cousineau was a Captain in the Canadian Armed Forces and took part in a high-stakes rescue mission at sea. Although Medric was awarded the Star of Courage for his work that day, the traumatic aftermath of this event led to his release from the service.
“My story is nothing more than symptomatic of what happens to a lot of people who are in the military. You are put in a particular place, you do your job, and unfortunately, I don’t think anyone can be fully prepared for the fallout,” says Medric.
The after-effects for Medric came in the form of PTSD. He suffered from night terrors and flashbacks. However, on August 6th 2012 a yellow lab named Thai walked into his life and became his saving grace. Thai is a PTSD Service Dog, trained to react to Medric’s triggers in order to prevent anxiety attacks, calm nerves, divert attention, and encourage him to use his coping tools.
“There is no more reassuring feeling in the world than reaching down and having her with me. She is the one who is going to react to the various situations that I find myself in and she is very good at that. When I have emotional self-regulation problems, she is completely there and on it,” says Medric.
For example, if he is walking in a shopping mall and starts to have an issue, Thai will bump into his leg and alert him that he is experiencing a form of anxiety. If Medric doesn’t pay attention to this she will actually reach up and put her two paws on him and make eye contact. If this doesn’t work, she will back up and take a run into him, giving him no choice but to recognize his emotions and then try to use his coping mechanisms.
“You need to trust your instruments. Thai is my instrument. You need to have complete faith and belief in your dog. Once you develop the trust in your Service Dog, it really opens up a door that for many people has been nailed shut for a long time.”
Although having a Service Dog is a blessing, it also comes as a major commitment. As Medric explains, it is an immense amount of work, and every single decision he makes involves Thai.
“I have to remind people that having a Service Dog is like having a small child. It’s 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. There are times when we leave the house at 7am and aren’t home until 10pm . We have to plan for every moment of that day and how it will affect Thai.”
Ultimately, Medric would like to continue to educate others on the importance of respecting Service Dogs and their owners through his work with Paws Fur Thought. “This is not the privilege of being able to take your pet everywhere, it is the reality of living with a medical appliance to help cope with a disability.”
You can read more about Medric’s story in his book “Further Than Yesterday: That’s All That Counts”, available here.
If you have a People Behind the Pets story to share, or know someone who does, please contact us at [email protected].
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