Hero’s Companion is a Canadian-Ukrainian not-for-profit project which aims to harness the power of the human-canine bond to help heal veterans of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and Ukrainian volunteer battalions who continue to struggle with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and other invisible and visible injuries inflicted by time spent in combat operations.
The project launched in August 2015, when four Canadian trainers travelled to Ukraine for a 3 week mission. This mission launched our therapy dog program, began the “training of the trainers” in Ukraine, and also began the pairing process between service dogs and veterans. In particular, the mission served to assess volunteers for training to become trainers; assessed and assisted in the selection and training of dogs for the purpose of the program; and, incorporated veterans and currently serving soldiers into the training process so that they may become trainers.
In the spring of 2016 Canadian trainers returned to Ukraine to continue and build upon the “training of the trainers” process. In particular, this mission focused on developing and fine-tuning service dog training skills, as well as introducing new “trainers in training” into the program. Importantly, the Canadian trainers, together with their Ukrainian counterparts, worked closely with Ukrainian veterans requiring service dogs. The trainers assessed the needs of the veterans and taught the Ukrainian trainers how to specially train dogs for each veteran.