HERO PUP: How a dog is helping his owner return to work
“I WAS in an absolute pit of anxiety and depression.”
Stephen Boland thought he would never work again after a traumatic day on the job shook his world.
But 18 months of therapy and support has helped the Lowood paramedic begin paving a way back to his career.
Stephen was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in 2017.
“I attended a job in a fairly isolated, remote area and it went a bit pear-shaped – that’s what triggered everything,” Stephen said.
After the incident in Western Queensland, about 20km west of Winton, Stephen began experiencing extreme anxiety.
“It happens with lots of ambos because we see lots of stuff … We get comments about how many terrible things we must see and yes, we do,” he said.
“We don’t want to talk about it because of patient confidentiality but there is also the stuff we don’t want you to know we’ve seen or done.
“I did everything I could to avoid dealing with stuff and tried to keep going … It wasn’t until my wife basically pulled me aside and told me I needed to go and get sorted.”
After nearly two years of intensive therapy, including working with a support dog – Blase – Stephen said his life had changed.
Blase, a support dog from PTSD Dogs Australia, has joined Stephen to help him work through his trauma.
“He positions himself to give me space in a crowded environment, he’ll identify where an exit is so we can go directly there if I need to remove myself from a room,” Stephen said.
“When I get anxious, he will nudge me, which is a tactile response to disrupt my behaviour so I can regulate and manage myself.”
Blase is among a number of dogs trained by PTSD Dogs Australia, a charity aimed at helping first response staff suffering PTSD.
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PTSD Dogs Australia Ambassador Tamara Wrigley said the process of training dogs was slow and cost about $40,000.
“We rescue dogs from shelters all over the country, and they’re assessed on their empathy and trainability,” Tamara said.
“People suffering PTSD tend to remove themselves from society and lock themselves in their house, and our dogs are trained to help mitigate that and get them back out and into the community again.”
Blase has been in Stephen’s life for three months and has “changed his life”.
“I’m at a point where I’m on a return to work program with the intent to going back on the road as a paramedic,” he said.
Read more stories by Ebony Graveur.