Posted on February 19, 2018
Dogs Trust Manchesters homeless hound is changing the life of a soldier with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Early last year Spaniel Cross Cassie arrived at the Denton-based rehoming centre. Assistant Manager Rebecca Smith saw that the dog has qualities to become an assistance dog.
“She was very people focused, confident and curious but also very gentle so when Service Dogs UK approached us, we introduced them to her and they agreed she could do really well, so off she went to begin her new adventure!” Rebecca Said.
Cassie has graduated as a PTSD Assistance Dog after nine months of training with soldier Shaun Faulkner. Cassie and Shaun are together day and night.
Shaun's dream was to become a soldier. He joined the army when he was 16-year-old in 2003. Between 2006 and 2014 he was broadcast to Iraq and Afghanistan. He became a corporal in 2014. Ather the completed tours, he came back home. He started to get nightmares, flashbacks and panic attacks from the rocket and mortar fire he had axperienced.
When he came back to the UK, after his time in Germany, in 2015, Shaun had the diagnose of PTSD. He had sympthoms of missing out his family life which he has with his wife, Carmen, and their four young children as he no longer wanted to leave the house.
He saw the advert Service Dogs UK for a new charity.
“My symptoms were affecting me and my family every single day. I’d go to the supermarket and just stand there, forgetting what I was there for. I saw the advert and it really appealed to me as I’ve had dogs all my life. I am passionate about rescue dogs. It’s not their fault they are in the situation they are in, and that was the same for me,” Shaun said.
Service Dogs UK has specially trained assistance dogs who providing veterans from the British Armed Forces and emergency services from PTSD. The rescue centres selects the dogs and partners them with veterans.
It was a match made in heaven from the moment Shaun and the two-year-old Cassie met each other.
“It might sound like a cliché but it really was love at first sight. She jumped on my knee and started licking me. She has transformed my life and I can’t imagine life without her. She makes doing the ordinary, everyday things that were becoming impossible, possible. Without her I would be a recluse,” Shaun said.
Shaun is able to enjoy the life with his family again. Also, he is happy to leave the house with Cassie by his side. The well trained Cassie can respond to a medication alarm reminder and importantly she is there whenever Shaun is having a difficult time, during day and night.
“She recognises when I’m anxious or upset and will come and sit by me or climb on my knee which snaps me out of it. She changes my focus and also gives me comfort.”
“Every night she lies across my feet in bed which is very calming and has reduced the number of nightmares I have, but if I do have nightmares she licks my face and if that doesn’t work she will gently paw at my face until I wake up.”
“When we’re out I call her my furry barrier! She stands behind me at cash machines and if I am in a supermarket her just being there helps prevent people crowding me which reduces my anxiety.”
Not only is Cassie Shaun’s four-legged friend, she has settled into all the fun of the family life.
Shaun says, “The kids love her and we have a great time going out together. She loves nothing more than splashing about in muddy puddles, but she senses when I need her and she’s always there, without fail.”