Hero’s Companion is a Canadian-Ukrainian non-profit harnessing the power of the human-canine bond to heal invisible wounds in veterans and victims of war. Since its launch in 2015 the project’s therapy dog program has helped thousands of veterans, soldiers, former prisoners of war, internally displaced persons, and children in their recovery from physical and psychological injuries. The project has also trained and paired service dogs with veterans of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and volunteer battalions who face acute struggles with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other invisible injuries inflicted by time spent in combat operations. In fact, the project grew out of a recognition of the distinct bond that could regularly be observed between soldiers and their canine companions on the front. Hero’s Companion is the first and only such project in Ukraine.
For over six years, Ukraine has been defending its sovereignty and territorial integrity against a Russian aggressor. In its wake, the war has affected hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians physically, psychologically, and emotionally. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for trauma-afflicted veterans and victims of war to turn to alcohol, drugs, and heavy medications in an attempt to silence their pain and distress. Hero’s Companion is a response to an urgent need to address these growing problems in a safe, healthy, and sustainable manner. To do this we work directly with rehabilitation professionals and organizations, oftentimes helping victims who, as a result of their traumatic experiences, have been unable to re-establish connection with the world around them.
The project is currently active in Kyiv and the surrounding region, Lutsk, and Ternopil. Our therapy dog program visits medical institutions, rehabilitation centres, veteran houses, schools, and special events on a weekly basis. The therapy dogs help lower stress and anxiety, bring comfort, and promote positive and constructive interactions with therapists and medical professionals. The project is innovative, as it has introduced a new form of rehabilitation in Ukraine for veterans and victims of war.