Last Easter, Erica and I hiked 100km in 5 days to raise money for a very special organisation called mindDog and in the first week of April, we are about to do it all over again.
This year we will be also be bringing Jess with us who happens to be my puppy class trainer at the Swan Street Vet Clinic in Richmond.
Who is mindDog?
mindDog is a not for profit organisation that accredits dogs to become Psychiatric Service Dogs.
They rely totally on donations and community support as they receive no government funding whatsoever.
mindDogs are solely trained to help those with mental health illnesses such as anxiety disorders, bipolar disorders, agoraphobia, personality disorders, those who suffer from panic attacks, social anxieties, PTSD, depression and so much more.
These dogs are trained so that they have impeccable obedience when out in public and this means in shopping centres, supermarkets, on public transport, in the medical centres or hospitals, in cafes and restaurants, out in public events and crowds, public toilets, during therapy sessions and more.
Not only is the obedience important but also the specialised tasks they perform for their person. This might be applying deep pressure with their paws when the person is having a panic attack, or barking or tugging to snap their person out of a flashback, some will pull their owners away to a quieter spot to calm down and others will block the public from interfering with their owner during anxious times. These dogs often naturally perform these tasks due to the special bond they have with their person.
Why am I so invested in mindDog?
Because I am one of the few trainers this organisation has that can work with these dogs and it a privilege to be part of their team.
I currently have 10 clients with their trainee mindDogs and they are all at different stages. Some are almost ready to be test, some are half way there and some have just started.
The changes these dogs have made to their owners' lives is amazing and one can only wish that others out there suffering from the same disorders could also get this assistance.
Whilst my training fees are all covered by the client, the fees that keep mindDog up and running are not.
There are currently only two Public Access Test assessors for mindDog in this whole country and they travel often all over Australia to assess, test, review and retest over 600 dogs and the numbers are increasing! The assessors only charge a very small fee for their tests and for the homeless of financially challenged, this test is actually done for free. The small fee they do get just does not cover the travel expenses for the assessor and supervisor, the flights, hire care and accommodation so over the last few years, their funds have dropped dramatically.
So much so that late last year, mindDog had to suspend further applications until September this year because they simply do not have the money to take on more dogs and their handlers. This means that there are many out there in limbo, waiting to get their dogs in the program and become accredited so they can go out in public.
The money raised will help pay for the travel expenses, the customised jackets that the dogs have to wear when out in public, the application fees and processes, the documentation, the diaries the dog owners have to complete and more. Every dollar counts.
Erica, Jess and I will be doing the Great Ocean Walk starting on April the 2nd and finishing on the 7th. We will be walking roughly 20 km per day through rugged terrain, long sandy stretches, up gruelling steep hills and facing whatever weather is thrown our way.
We hope you can join us on our journey and follow us on Facebook when we begin but more importantly, we hope you can spare a few dollars and donate to this cause and help get these dogs accredited and the owners the support they need!