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Paws Fur Thought barbecue Thursday to help military battle post-traumatic stress

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UPDATE: Paws for Thought comes to Picton Thursday. Mike Slatter has planned a barbecue at the Picton Legion beginning at 5 p.m. Sobey’s owner Jamie Yeo is sponsoring the fundraising event providing hot dogs, hamburgers and more.

By Ross Lees
A Star of Courage recipient, and former Search and Rescue crew member, and his faithful companion Thai, his post-traumatic stress disorder service dog, will bring the Paws Fur Thought campaign to Picton and the Northumberland and Hastings counties regions beginning Aug. 30.

Captain (retired) Medric Cousineau and Thai are walking across part of Canada for Paws Fur Thought to raise awareness of the benefits of pairing service dogs with those suffering with PTSD. The goal of the campaign is to raise funds for 50 dogs for 50 veterans.

Capt. Cousineau and Thai’s  campaign schedule includes Norwood-Havelock on Aug. 30, Marmora on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, Stirling on Sept. 2, Trenton on Sept. 3, Belleville on Sept. 4; Picton on Sept. 5, Collins Bay on Sept. 7, RMC on Sept 8, Kingston on Sept. 9, Renfrew on Sept. 12, Arnprior on Sept. 13, Smiths Falls on Sept. 15, Perth on Sept. 16, Carleton Place on Sept. 17, Kanata on Sept, 18 and Ottawa on Sept. 19, according to the Paws Fur Thought website. Canadian Army Veterans Riding Club, 83 units and 4,800-plus members strong, will be supporting the Walk through this portion of the trek.

On the night he earned the Star of Courage, Lt. Cousineau was serving with 12 Wing Shearwater as a tactical co-ordinator on a Sea King helicopter whose primary role was anti-submarine warfare. However, his secondary role was Search and Rescue. The following text is from his Star of Courage citation:
On the night of Oct. 6, 1986, Lt. Medric Cousineau, a member of the crew of a Canadian Armed Forces Search and Rescue helicopter, risked his life in order to effect the rescue of two seriously-injured crewmen from an American fishing boat. At the time of the rescue it was dark and weather conditions were terrible, with rain, strong winds and heavy seas; and the deck of the boat, which was pitching and rolling continuously, was obscured by antennae, fishing apparatus and machinery. Fully aware of the hazardous conditions, Lt. Cousineau volunteered to be lowered to the deck of the vessel in order to move the injured men from the boat to the helicopter. On the first attempt he was thrown overboard when the boat pitched violently, but on a second attempt, although he fell into the sea, he managed to scramble aboard. He was able, despite the flying spray and the tremendous noise of the large helicopter hovering close overhead, to quickly organize the preparation and evacuation of the two injured crewmen. Had Lt. Cousineau not willingly put his own life in jeopardy, both of the injured men would certainly have died.

As great as that rescue was, former Capt. Cousineau has struggled with PTSD for the 26 years since that rescue. His life only took a change for the better almost two years ago when he received his service dog, Thai. Since that time, he’s lost weight, reduced his medication and deals better with stress and anger.
He now hopes to bring similar aid to 50 other veterans through the Paws Fur Thought campaign. He hopes to raise $350,000 through the campaign and to bring awareness to Canadians at both the political and social levels.

So far, the Paws Fur Thought campaign has found four dogs for veterans and there are seven more in the queue, according to volunteer spokesperson Hugh Ellis. And awareness grows with each visit to another community.
“Medric is holding up surprisingly well,” Mr. Ellis noted. “He has eight pairs of boots broken in and his training was excellent. It is incredibly rewarding to him to talk to all the veterans and he’s honoured to meet them. His visit also seems to be creating a thread to join all the Legions he’s visited.”
Ellis added the walk is a ton of work for Capt. Cousineau and emotionally draining.
“He finds it sad and difficult to talk to the veterans and their families,” he said. “It’s a big emotional load to carry.”

Emotional loads are exactly what Capt. Cousineau does not need to carry. Having  suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder since 1986, Capt. Cousineau has spent a lot of time in a garden shed with just one door and one window because he could always get his back against the wall, according to Mr. Ellis.
“Since being paired with his service dog (Thai), there has been an immense change in him.”
Mr. Ellis said Capt. Cousineau sees the service dog as a direct replacement for his drugs and treatment.

“It’s a very poorly understood illness,” Mr. Ellis said. “The people who treat vets for PTSD are open-minded but not convinced,” he said. “Cous wants to formalize the use of dogs for PTSD sufferers through the campaign and promote it as a useful aid.”
PTSD has weighed heavily on Capt. Cousineau to the point he has made several attempts to kill himself, according to Mr. Ellis.
While PTSD is more often thought to be connected with combat zone situations, Mr. Ellis explains it a little differently, especially in conjunction with Capt. Cousineau.
He says it can stem from any situation where there might be an unbearable flood of adrenalin.

“In the rescue situation, he recalls five times in about five minutes when he really thought he was going to die,” Mr. Ellis told The Contact. “It was a short, very intense thing that caused this for him. It’s like there is a sense of utter helplessness to control the situation of the day, like there’s just nothing that can be done about it.”
And that’s the situation those treating the illness and government officials must grasp when discussing PTSD, Mr. Ellis feels. A very short period of time under incredible duress can trigger PTSD symptoms.

During the visit to Trenton, it is expected Capt. Cousineau will visit the Afghanistan Repatriation Memorial. The Legion Branch 110 is holding a fundraising dance on Aug. 30 for the event and then will sponsor a barbecue on Sept 3 at 4:30 p.m. called Hot Dogs 4 Service Dogs. Former Capt. Cousineau will also make several appearances in the community, although many of those events won’t be finalized until just prior to the visit.
For the Belleville visits, a much more formalized event structure has been established. The day starts at Elmwood Cemetery at approximately 8 a.m. and proceeds along River Road to Cannifton Road. From Cannifton Road, Capt. Cousineau continues on to the Veterans Bridge and then on to the Sports Centre. He continues down Station Street to the Cenotaph, then on to Moira St. to visit the Log Cabin.

Capt. Cousineau will then take the Waterfront Trail to Front St and the Loyalist Monument. H eproceeds down Front St. south to Meyers Pier, then on to St. Paul St. He goes east on St. Paul St. past he old Anglican Church to Foster Ave., north to Bridge St., east on Bridge St. to Glanmore House, then west on Bridge St. to Ann St., north to the Corby Rose Gardens, then back to Bridge St., passing the Anglican Church where the Hasty P colours are kept and on to the Armouries and the Hasty P Museum. The final stop is the Legion at approximately 3:30 p.m. for a reception and perhaps some dignitary speeches and cheque presentations at around 4 p.m

 

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  1. Terry says:

    A big thank you also to Mike Paquette, (GIANT TIGER PICTON) for his generous donation ($) to help purchase another therapy dog for another vet with PTSD. Our community businesses always step up to the plate and we are very grateful. And to the people who attended the event, thank you for your time and donations. To our Legion Br.78 for their generous donation because it is for the veterans that they give and thank you to all who helped with the BBQ and cleanup. Gil mentioned SOBEY’S but thanks again. Put The Stigma Down (PTSD)

  2. Gil says:

    Thank you Jamie Yeo (SOBEY’S) for your support once again in sponsoring another worthwhile event at the Picton Legion.
    Thanks to Mike Slatter for all your efforts in organizing this very short noticed event. And a special thank you to Mayor Martens for his presence at this BBQ and fund raising event.
    A Big Thank You,on behalf of ALL Veterans to Capt.Cousineau,his lovely wife and Thai the “wonder dog” for all their time and efforts in bringing PTSD to the fore front as a serious medical problem.
    Their Dedication is inspirational.

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