By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman
Southern Alberta Newspapers
A group of southern Alberta dog lovers is helping veterans train their beloved pets to achieve a high level of obedience and give the veterans peace of mind while dealing with PTSD.
Kilo-9 is a training organization that started in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic when a veteran and a dog lover recognized the need to equip other veterans with the tools to strengthen their bond with their pet by helping them learn techniques to train them.
Training director Ken LeBlanc says they also help veterans who do not have a furry companion to find one through various fostering organizations, and once they obtain the dogs they help train them.
“Our website is a resource for them to call at any time,” LeBlanc says. “They can leave a message, they can send a video of what they are having difficulties with their dog, anything in regards of training support. We also help them get in contact with veterinary care.”
LeBlanc says their goal is to make sure veterans feel confident in their ability to teach their dog to behave in a way that matches their expectations, to avoid adding stress to a dog owner who already is dealing with PTSD.
“I think the beneficial thing about having a well-behaved dog, is that it gives the person the confidence to take the dog anywhere and they’re not worried about the dog running off, or the dog creating chaos as oftentimes they’re looking for the dog to be a source of comfort and calm, and if the dog doesn’t listen it has the opposite effect.”
Kilo-9 president Kerry Parks said he is a veteran who is also a dog owner, and for him having his dog Dax in his life is extremely beneficial, and he knows it is the same for many dog owners.
“Dogs are very intuitive and are capable of sensing your mood,” Parks says. “They can sense if you’re happy, or you’re having a bad day. They don’t have to be service dogs to do that. Just having a dog in your life can make you smile when you’re having a crap mood.”
Park says his life revolves around his dog, which means the world to him, and he gets that love reciprocated in every way.
“One of the reasons for Kilo-9 when we first created it with Ken, was the fact that a lot of veterans have dogs. They can be their family dog that stays behind while they are deployed, or a dog they acquired after for companionship.”
He says for many veterans coming back home with PTSD, having a dog that does not listen can bring up a lot of anxiety and worsen their mental health, and that is why they created Kilo-9.
“Let’s say a dog takes off and doesn’t want to come back when called; most people go into frenzy. But if on top of that they are dealing with PTSD, that takes them out of their comfort zone, so that is where Kilo-9 stems from.”
LeBlanc adds that another way they are helping veterans with their dogs is by providing all the services at no cost, which removes financial barriers to gain the tools to train their dogs and reduce their stress in the process.
“We are a not for profit organization, we are volunteers. We want to create an opportunity for them to have access to workshops and quality training without having to spend a huge amount of money to make that happen.”
Veterans in southern Alberta looking for help with their dogs can access various resources at kilo9.ca.