Jacket off, Milo is your average fun loving 14-month-old German Shepherd. Jacket on, he’s all duty.
New Glasgow resident Ron Wray suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from his time in the military, has severe arthritis which impacts his mobility and also has diabetes. But since Milo came into his life about two weeks ago, he has someone to help with all of those issues.
Already Wray has found a difference. Within the first two weeks of having him, Milo has already alerted him twice that his sugars were low. Milo can detect this by licking Wray’s hand or smelling his breath.
“The first time it happened I was actually still in bed and he woke me up from a dead sleep. My sugars were down to 2. 6,” Wray said.
If he is having trouble getting up because of his arthritis, Milo has been trained to come over. Wray is able to grab a special harness that Milo wears to pull himself up.
For his PTSD symptoms, Milo provides comfort and security.
“A couple biggest issues for me is going out in public. I don’t do that well. I don’t do nighttime and dark.”
The process of pairing the two began almost two and a half years ago – over a year before Milo was even born. Wray applied for the dog through an organization called Paws Fur Thought, which helps provide service dogs to those who have served in the military or as first responders and suffer from PTSD. The program is run by volunteers and operates with donations. The Royal Canadian Legion is one of the biggest contributors and a portion of the poppy campaign funds from legions are allocated towards the organization. The Trenton Legion, of which Wray is a member, also contributed directly to help Wray by providing money to help cover expenses associated with the dog such as a kennel and veterinary costs.
Milo’s journey began south of the border in Kansas. For the first six months of his life he actually lived in a jail, paired with an inmate in a prison. There is a program in that state which inmates train the dogs the basics like going to the bathroom. From there the dogs then go to a foster home for six months before being sent to a training facility operated by CARES to be specifically trained for the needs of the person they will be paired with. In Milo’s case, he was specifically trained to meet the needs that Wray had.
For his part, Wray had to go through a background screening and tell about his specific requirements. Then he flew down to Kansas for a week where he and Milo spent the entire time day and night together at the training facility.
“First thing Monday morning you get introduced to your dog and the training starts. The dog stays with you the whole week.”
All week Milo wore the vest. All week he was on duty.
“What I found when I first got him is he was like a robot,” he said. “He had no personality or anything. It was just like, ‘What do you want me to do.’”
Slowly though as the week progressed, he saw the personality come out and the bond began to develop.
Now that he has Milo home, Wray said he’s trying to find a balance of when to have Milo on duty and when to have him off duty, but is really pleased with how it’s all worked out and loves the companionship of the dog and his loyalty.
“They give you so much and they ask for so little.”
He hopes that by telling his story that other veterans who have PTSD or other disabilities will be encouraged to reach out to their local legion or Paws Fur Thought to find out more.
Heidi Boyles, president of the Trenton Legion, said they were happy to be able to help make this happen in Wray’s situation.
“If it wasn’t for our veterans we wouldn’t be here. We have them to thank for our freedom.”
She hopes that people will remember this and donate to this year’s poppy campaign so they can continue to support veterans.