Applejacks brightens Shawn Gallant’s darker moments.
“It helps me with my depression and pain,” Gallant says in an interview at his home in Pictou.
“He keeps me laughing, keeps me in a positive mood.”
Applejacks is an 18-month old White Shepherd that came to live with Gallant in March, after being trained in Ontario.
Gallant, is on three kinds of pain medication and three types of depression medication. The pain medication is necessary after he was involved in a car accident in 2012, followed by a workplace accident four years ago when he slipped on some black ice, causing a severe back injury.
After being diagnosed as needing a service dog a couple of years ago, Gallant reached out to the breeder/trainer in Ontario and struck a deal: they would ‘loan’ Gallant a dog, if he agreed to take on the responsibility of raising $25,000 to purchase five service dogs (Applejacks being one of them) to be distributed to those in need around Nova Scotia.
“I want to do something about it. That’s what made me start out Service Dogs: Psychological Depression with Chronic Pain Association (Servide Dogs PDCP Association),” he explains.
He has a webpage set up (servicedogspdpdassociation.com) and also can be reached through email at: ShawnGallant@servicedogspdcpassociation.com.
Applejacks arrived already trained, and there is a list of code words that Gallant uses to communicate what he needs.
“It took us three days to bond and as he learns more about me, he’ll learn my depression and what I do, and he’ll be there to get me out of it. He’ll bark, jump on me, anything to get me out of the daze.”
The 46-year-old Gallant, who grew up in Mississauga, Ont., travels six times a month to three different Sobeys locations in Pictou County, selling 50/50 tickets, or accepting donations from people who just want to help.
As Applejacks eyes a stranger in his domain, Gallant says the dog had definitely helped his disposition.
“I’m happier. He’s always making me laugh,” says Gallant.
He said that Applejacks recently got two chew toys and went to work on them.
“For a good two-and-a-half hours, that’s all he did – playing with his toys, making them squeak. He was happy and content and that, to me, was priceless. I had a smile on my face the whole time.”
Many people don’t understand what those living with depression go through; it’s not solved by simply telling someone to cheer up.
“Cheering up is not something that comes easy, once you get depressed,” Gallant says.
“It’s a battle, and you grab whatever happiness you can get.”