Four paws, two feet, one team

Four paws, two feet, one team

Operation Freedom Paws Canada helps serving members and Veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Nestled between Nanaimo and Courtenay on Vancouver Island is the fishing village of Fanny Bay. This small hamlet is home to Barb Ashmead and Ellen Suettler, two women who have been actively campaigning to provide service dogs to serving members and Veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), first responders, and members of the public who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Barb has been matching service dogs with people suffering from PTSD for years, but has recently partnered with Operation Freedom Paws, an American organization that empowers Veterans and others to live with their PTSD.

Barb met Ellen when matching Ellen’s husband, a Veteran of the CAF, with his dog Tui in 2014. After Ellen’s husband passed a few years later, Tui became Ellen’s companion. Passionate about helping other Veterans integrate back into the community with the assistance of these furry friends, Ellen joined Barb’s team.

In March 2020, their application for $20,000 from Boomer’s Legacy, a charity that provides community development grants to serving Canadian Armed Forces members, was approved. This financial backing set in motion Freedom Paws Canada, whose motto is “Four paws, two feet, one team. Saves two lives.”

Already, Barb and Ellen have recruited 13 rescue dogs of various breeds into the 48-week training program.
“For dogs that are rescued, when they bond with their owner they bond 100% and will give everything to that person,” says Barb.

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After spending eight years in the Army and suffering a near-fatal injury, Steve Knox continues to battle PTSD. He was paired with Timber at the beginning of June.

“I don’t feel nervous, not watching my six anymore, so it’s made a big difference,” says Steve. “At home, my wife says I’m happier. I’m sleeping better now. It’s been life-saving for me.”

Serge Lacasse is still an active member of the military in Esquimalt and was just paired with three-month-old Galileo. He too says the experience will be life-changing for him.
 
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Named after Andrew Boomer Eykelenboom, a military medic from Comox who was killed in Afghanistan in 2006, Boomer’s Legacy has distributed over $1 million in community development grants since its inception in 2006.

Andrew’s mother, Maureen Eykelenboom, who started Boomer’s Legacy after her son’s death says, “It’s so amazing to see the difference in someone before they have had a service dog and after.”
Boomer’s Legacy

Andrew’s Story - As told by his mom

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