Training Dogs to Heal
Tricia Reynolds spent more than 20 years with the Royal Australian Air Force - starting her career in supply but moving on to working as a dog handler.
"I'd always wanted to work with animals so when I saw the RAAF dogs at work, I knew that was what I wanted to do."
In 2017, Tricia and her husband moved to the US where she saw an organisation working to train dogs to provide assistance to people with PTSD.
Volunteering with Service Dogs Alabama, Tricia was promptly asked to assist with the training of service dogs. Tricia describes the handing over of a black labrador to a veteran who had gone on to police service, "He had severe PTSD and hadn't left the house for a long time without his wife around. Within days he was walking through a shopping centre by himself, with his dog, engaging in conversation with a stranger - this would have never happened before he was given the dog."
"To see such a positive change in someone's life was pivotal. It was amazing. These dogs are a medical aid - just like someone needs a wheelchair, someone may need an assistance dog."
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For Tricia, being involved in the programs offered by The Prince's Trust gave her the skills and knowledge that she needed to start her own business, but Tricia has actually continued to offer her services mostly on a volunteer basis as she and her husband are likely to be heading back to the US.
"The Prince's Trust gave me the confidence to reach out and ask people for help in the area that I was interested in."
Tricia discovered that not only was she welcome to ask for help from others in the field, her experience as a RAAF dog handler meant that she was in demand. But for now, she's still very happy to help get the dogs to the people who need them most.
"People often confuse therapy dogs with assistance dogs and they have different rights under the disability discrimination act. Assistance dogs can't be discriminated against and can go anywhere with a person, but therapy dogs are considered companion dogs. So it's impressive to see what rights these dogs have and what their handlers can do."
While another move is imminent, Tricia says she will continue to dedicate herself to these amazing dogs.
"I get to train dogs and I get to help people. I wish I could do it full time - it makes me happy! I don't need money to do this."