Veterans across the country were honoured and remembered for their service today, including local veteran Neil Nunn who said this year’s commemorations were special to him in more ways than one.
Since returning from service, Moore Park Beach resident Neil has struggled with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) but two months ago his life changed for the better when he welcomed military assistance dog Kessie into his family.
Kessie, a 16 month old Golden Retriever, graduated from training in September and made her first official appearance at today’s Moore Park Beach Remembrance Day service.
She has been in training for the past 14 months and found her new home with Neil, who said Kessie was a very welcome addition to his home and provided him with a great deal of support and company.
“Kessie has been trained to help me overcome PTSD reactions such as if I get high anxiety or a bad temper she distracts me and she also wakes me up if I’m having night terrors,” Neil said.
“She has also allowed me to go to the supermarkets and the shops, as if I have trouble she will do what we call a block and stand in front of me, or if people are behind me she will stand behind.
“We always use the same entry and exit to the centres and she knows as soon as I say exit, from wherever we are in the centre, she will take me straight back to the door that we called exit coming in.”
Throughout her training Kessie has been prepared for a range of situations, ensuring that Neil is always well looked after and in good company.
“When she has her halter and jacket on she knows that she is working, but as soon as we take that off she is a 16 month old who just runs around like any other puppy,” he said.
“She has been trained for a lot of different things, many that I didn’t even know about, for example whenever I give her a command such as sit, she won’t do anything else until I give her another command.
“If we come up to a door she won’t go through the door until I do, and when she is working she has been trained to ignore everything else.”
Neil said Kessie goes everywhere with him, including to the local bowls club, where even the members have noticed how much of a positive change she has made to his life in a short period of time.
“She is great when we are at bowls, she just sits and waits for the three to four hours, or until I say otherwise,” he said.
“All the guys I play with have said how much of an impact and positive change she has made to my life.”
Neil said the golden retriever definitely had a personality of her own and, when she was not working, she was just happy to be herself around the house.
“She has got a personality alright!” he said.
“As soon as I turn the TV off she bolts and jumps on the bed and I have to go in there and say are you going to move over or what? Then she just looks at you and rolls over.”
Kessie was trained through Smart Pups on the Sunshine Coast who are just one of many trainers of military dogs.
“You have got to apply for a dog through Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) and they give you the base approval to have one trained,” he said.
“Once approved, you have to apply to one of the training places who will then further go through your details and begin training a dog for you.
“It is a long process because they won’t tell you whether you are certain to have a dog or not until they pass their training.”
Neil said Kessie had saved his life since being in it and looked forward to making many more memories with her.
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