VICD Service Dogs Alberta, a division of Alberta Guide Dogs, officially launched its OSI-PTSD Service Dog Program in the province and celebrated four recent graduate teams on August 25, 2021 at the Prince of Wales Armouries in Edmonton. The formal announcement was also an opportunity to recognize several community partners and funding support from two mental wellness associations.
In attendance were members of the Alberta Government’s Disability Initiatives Team, Community and Social Services; staff and volunteers of Alberta Guide Dogs; and representatives from the Edmonton Community Foundation, The Royal Canadian Legion Devon Branch No. 247, Wounded Warriors Canada, OSI-CAN Canadian Mental Health Association – Alberta Division, Callie’s Corner, Hope Heels Service Dogs, and the local Edmonton Fire Fighters Hall.
The event began with BC & Alberta Guide Dogs CEO, William Thornton, sharing how the organization has grown over 25 years to become a leading Guide and Service Dog provider in Western Canada. Thornton spoke of the journey that started with Guide Dogs for the blind and visually-impaired, continued with Autism Service Dogs for children and their families, and further expanded to include OSI-PTSD Service Dogs for Veterans and First Responders. VICD Service Dogs Executive Director, Mike Annan, then spoke of the program’s growth from being a one-person operation in Quallicum Beach on Vancouver Island to now having teams graduating across British Columbia and Alberta.
“Storm turned out to be the most wonderful Service Dog a person could ever have.”
One graduate team in attendance was Dave Marson and his OSI-PTSD Service Dog Storm. Marson is a former member of the Canadian Armed Forces where he served as a firefighter and ambulance driver. He shared that it took approximately three years to qualify for a Service Dog and has now been with Storm for a year. Marson said that Storm knows what triggers him, wakes him up from nightmares, and has given him the ability to leave his house.
“Storm turned out to be the most wonderful Service Dog a person could ever have. There’s a great need and I would like to do my part, Storm and I, to help raise more funds to get more dogs to the people who deserve and need these dogs. It does change your life,” said Marson.
The Eldon and Anne Foote Fund at the Edmonton Community Foundation was formally recognized as the Team Sponsor for Dave Marson and Storm, and Marson presented them with a framed print of his OSI-PTSD Service Dog.
Wounded Warriors Canada was also formally recognized at the event; and it was also announced that Dean and Service Dog Andy will be sponsored by The Royal Canadian Legion Devon Branch No. 247, and that Dan and Service Dog Shep have been sponsored by OSI-CAN Alberta Division.
Generous donations from OSI-CAN – Alberta Division and Callie’s Corner
OSI-CAN Alberta Division, through the Canadian Mental Health Association, announced a $20,000 donation to help with the breeding, training and placement of OSI-PTSD Service Dogs in Alberta.
Callie Powers, a former EMS frontline worker, also announced a $3,500 donation from her Callie’s Corner foundation to directly support the training efforts of Service Dogs in the Edmonton area to improve the lives of frontline workers challenged by operational stress injuries.
We thank both associations for their generous gifts and their support of VICD Service Dogs in Alberta.
Congratulations to newly certified OSI Service Dog Instructor Cristina Castrejon
The event finished with a celebration of the official certification of OSI Service Dog Instructor, Cristina Castrejon, who has completed her two-year apprenticeship program with VICD Service Dogs. She was congratulated with a standing ovation from the attendees, which included the heartfelt thanks of staff, volunteers, and graduates of Alberta Guide Dogs and VICD Service Dogs Alberta.