Humans and hounds will be hitting the trails on September 24th for Muddy Paws Adventure’s annual Trails N’ Tails charity hike in support of the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia’s PTSD service dog matching initiative for first responders.
Trails N’ Tails was born three years ago out of a desire to create a social enterprise to my newly formed dog hiking business. After spending 20 years in a corporate industry that always gave back to its community, it was important for me to carry that culture over to my own little company, how-ever small the contribution might be. I was having a hard time wrapping my head around where my help would be best served, until I attended a conference featured presenters from around the Maritimes who were all doing their part to improve the lives of people and pets. Medric Cousineau, military veteran and founder of Paws Fur Thought, was one of those presenters.
As I sat spell bound with the rest of the attendees listening to Medric share his life threatening struggles with PTSD and how one Yellow Lab saved his life, his message was hitting very close to home. My father, a Naval Chief Warrant Officer, struggled with his own mental health until he ended his life at the age of 43, just shortly after retiring from a decorated 25 year military career. I was twelve years old and it was 1981, a time when suicide and depression were kept in the family vault.
As Medric ended his talk, he asked everyone in the room to help – to lobby government, increase awareness, and raise funds, so more veterans and first responders living with PTSD could receive the same life saving support of a trained service dog.
Along with being a Navy brat, I’m also the wife of a police officer. For over 20 years, I’ve witnessed the day to day stress that our emergency service personal endure. While one significant event could very likely have a devastating effect on their mental health, it is also the cumulative years of serving their communities that can take a tole on their well being.
I tried to find the courage to introduce myself to Medric after his presentation, but I couldn’t trust my own emotions in that moment. I felt 12 years-old again and while I wanted to reach out, the thought was paralyzing. It wasn’t until months later that I introduced myself to him through an email and a proposal to host a charity dog hike in support of his organization.
The first year, Trails N’ Tails raised just over $2000 for military veterans in need of service dogs. The event was a family affair with my sister, mother, husband and good friends all pitching in to make the day a success. We were thrilled by the contributions, but even more gratifying was seeing the very people we were raising money for brave a day at a public event for a cause very close to their hearts.
By year two, Medric had joined forces with the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia due to the overwhelming requests he was receiving from first responders in need of help. That year, Trails N’ Tails raised enough funds to dramatically change the life of one Nova Scotia first responder living with PTSD.
This year, our goal is to do the same for three more first responders. Along with raising funds through participant pledges and a Go Fund Me page (for those who can’t join us at the event), we’re also challenging first responders throughout the province to enter teams. My husband and our dog Koko will be heading up this challenge and are inviting fellow emergency service personnel to support their own living with PTSD. For more information on this year’s Trails N’ Tails event, click here. See you on the trails!