10 September 2019

This police officer's life was changed forever by his PTSD service dog Kal

Shawn Fougere, is a police officer living with PTSD. We had a chance to sit down with Shawn and Kal to learn more about the special bond they share. We were ...

my name is Shawn Fujairah I'm a 27 year

veteran of the intere Provincial Police my life prior to having my dog cow was quite different in the way that through my job as a police officer I started to develop symptoms of what I've now known to be post-traumatic stress disorder of course you know in the era that I began policing and over 25 years ago it wasn't really you know no I don't want to say we're cool but it wasn't something that police officers did which would share their feelings so a lot of the feelings and emotions I was starting to build up I just push down and push down until eventually things began to percolate and I started to have addiction problems with alcohol trying to calm myself and then I started having issues with social settings to the point where I wouldn't leave my house I began to isolate stayed in the bedroom or sat on the same place in the couch I just was not the man that I used to be there was a suicide attempt with my gun in the change room that a friend helped me get to a treatment center so my life at that point was just I was at a precipice of what do I do now we've identified he has post-traumatic stress disorder but I'm not healing I'm just soaking I'm just sitting I can't

handle life my wife have a family I had two teenage kids at that point and that wasn't easy so we're like what are we gonna do I wouldn't leave my house unless I had my wife with me and so what happened is is I had a sort of a relaxed emotionally I was at almost the same place as I was with the gun and the change room and my wife and my sister-in-law brought me to the emergency room because they were they feared for my safety it was that emergency room doctor that said you know what what would you think about a service dog because the type of triggers you have being social anxiety not wanting to leave the house he goes some dogs can help with that so I left there and I spoke to my psychologist who went yeah I think that's a great idea so then I went through a process I was a very long process I went to my my associate or union and they had a list of people so I applied to a not-for-profit group that called United by trauma long story short I was selected so cow came into my life I mean there's a story even about how I got him but once he came into my life absolutely everything changed

dramatically I don't isolate anymore if I'm by myself I'm not I talked to Cal as if he's a human he forces me outside even on days where I'm not well or don't feel like going out oh he's a very an 85-pound German Shepherd that wants to run so I have to take him out and I do that so all of these things he changes so I've gone from a person that wouldn't leave to somebody that will at least go out on my own the other thing that he did dramatically is social settings I wouldn't go till to Walmart I wouldn't go to any place because of people I would freeze Cal change that with his training I can now go out in the public confident I'm not always mean code orange which just just means hyper vigilant whenever I used to walk and have to walk against the wall constantly turning around constantly turning around and cows changed all that now I don't have to I can walk normally because Cal looks looks around when I get to a corner Cal looks around the corner first all that kind of stuff that he's trained to do has freed me up and probably one of the biggest things that he did right

off the bat I suffered from night terrors which are a lot different from nightmares night terrors are like I'm in the battle so I'm swinging I've broken clocks I've broken lamps and that kind of stuff and what Cal was trained to do was any sort of change in my behavior whether I'm awake or asleep he sort of checks on me right so in my sleep once you get into a night terror you go from being quiet to losing your mind so Cal he would get up and come over and jump on me jump right on the bed and wake me up get me out of night hair so that happened two or three times you actually even woke up my wife once because I think she must have made some strange noise so what happened with that is I gained the confidence of he always there and he was always there so I haven't had a night terror and I'd say about a year and a half and it's all attributed to cow I mean I can go on forever and ever but the changes but those are the huge life-altering changes that he's given me it what's really neat about the bonding process of the dog as it starts right away of training I remember I started going to see the pups the trainer had a group of about eight

German shepherds and Belgian Malinois so we went and did a little questionnaire a little interview and they identified based on my family dynamics and my level that I go I was sort of slated for a smaller female check German Shepherd so we started working with the dogs and then when we went to to choose okay the trainer is now going to watch it with all the dogs what happened was the smaller female German Shepherd that I was with was jumping and so when we were working at the Rideau Center in Ottawa during training we'd ran if we'd walk in something would go bang the dog would jump I would jump in it was like what the dis isn't working and what happened with kal was he was a month younger than everybody else so generally they trained the dogs from eight weeks to a year old then at a year old they do their thing but the trainer says cow is an alpha male and he's got attitude let me just try you with a cow and what's a freaking it was amazing I just he's a big beautiful beast and quit the heart of gold he's company's very very very sensitive he's kind of got a lot of my attributes but he walked to the strut and most dogs

in the perfect heel or right to your left like rape besides it cows like God I'm not walking beside you I want to walk slightly in front of you and at first the trainer trainer is like well I can change that I don't know don't I said if you don't mind because then when I walk we're sitting there going along and when I get to a corner he got to the corner first and he cleared it for me and if anybody came up to me anywhere he turned around and looked at them I'm standing in line to pay for something if he couldn't see behind me because I was there he put his head between my legs to look behind me I don't said I'm going this dog's a rock star and then when we were just hanging out afterwards he just snuggle so the bond happened almost immediately for both of us now if I walk anywhere in the house he follows me I go upstairs downstairs when I go go in the shower he lays outside the bathroom door during the whole shower so the bond that we've developed basically has gone both ways and I think that's kind of like the perfect marriage of what they're looking for and it kind of happened accidentally that and

because of that I always have a buddy that's emotionally attached to me and so does he we look to each other and I guess that's what the definition of a bond is I didn't even know what it is but anybody that sees us together my wife can attest to it as well we are joined at the hip whether he was a service dog or just my pet he is attached to me and my family if you saw him around my wife too it's incredible so yeah the bond unbelievable it's really really tight the the other part is when you bring in a service dog at home like I have a wife and I have two at the time when I first got cow two teenage kids living at home we also have a thirteen pound ten pound wiener dogs about this big so to incorporate into the family and when he came in he just came in and just loved everybody it has different relationships my daughter for example she loves to snuggle and stuff so she tells him jump up and he hugs her he literally you don't know if you've seen him do that at conferences and stuff but sometimes he'll walk up and just jump at me he puts his paws here and he just wants to snuggle so he

doesn't with my daughter a lot or jumps on her bed and just loves to just snuggle with myself he's got this relationship with my son that is so fun to watch so my my son's a big kid he's about 63 now and they've developed this game where they they fight together but in a fun way so like dough fight Brady gets on the floor they roll around but what Cal has started doing is if he's downstairs and Brady's coming downstairs the dog will literally sort of hide around the corner and then when Brady comes down the stairs he pounces wraps his paws around Brady's legs and brings him down like a gazelle and then they fight and they roll around and they chew and it's so fun to watch so there's two different election ships he's got this nice soft snuggly thing with my daughter and then with my son it's just an all-out they just love each other and to see that it warms my heart to because I'm bringing in a large animal into my house that the whole family wasn't expecting a day in the life of Cal and I can depend if my wife is at home then the day is kind of just a normal day which is kind of cool

I generally bring him out in the morning beforehand because he likes his exercise and stuff and then we just sort of do like any couple day because he lets me do that when my wife is at work and we're just home home alone the process is a little different just because ok now I'm alone with cow so it starts off with we get up I have my breakfast then we go for like a walk or somewhere like that he eats and I take him out to the bush all the time because that's what he loves to do Cal doesn't work all the time as a matter of fact he works very limited ly any other time it's kind of like free time for him and that's what my days are like I take him I have a boat and he comes on my boat with me I have an ATV comes on my ATV with me and I try to do something every day because that's what I missed about my life before that what's really cool of Cal is he does have certain things that he loves to do and I'm gonna say probably the biggest thing he loves outdoors but one of the biggest things he likes I have a certain areas that I go to that he knows that there's water and as soon as I hit the gravel road he's up in the van he's looking out the

window he's pumped and you just know he opened up the gate he's gone I never knew German shepherds liked water I just assume they didn't and he loves it absolutely loves it he'll go in with his vest he'll go in without his vest on so I have to always watch that we went to a beach once and of course he came with me and that's how I found out we're just in the shallows and all sudden II just started running in the water it's to the point where if we stop anywhere if we're traveling I literally get out of the van and do a look-see around the van to make sure there's no water around because if we're traveling you don't want a long-haired stinky dreamer separate in the car and probably one of the best stories to that as we were shopping at an outlet mall we went before we left there's a field we stopped we're gonna let him out just to just have the pee and a drink before we drive home as well three hour drive home and all of a sudden we look just as the same time as my wife and I went is that a swamp splash she's in it so his love for water is just absolutely uncanny the other thing he loves to do is he loves to run in the bush and chase anything follow

the scent what I mean by chases I don't mean literally the animal but up north like rabbits and deer and he'll get on a track and just track in tracking tracking track and I just get to follow him he gets so pumped about doing that kind of stuff he has his favourite little squeak toy it's a big sloth he loves just walking around carrying carrying that in his mouth when he's in the mood to play if he's bored and we were watching TV or something all the sudden he'll grab his sloth he'll come up and he'll bump you with it just bump bump knee just wants to play so he's got a lot of playful side to him and he's just always fun to be around and you can't ignore him mm-hmm if he's in the mood to play he's big enough he'll just keep bumping yeah and bumping yeah any nibbles oh he nibbles on you you know like when the dog is trying to chew if they're itchy or a little bug when he's excited or happy he does that so there's certain things about him that he's got characteristics the things that are funny about the service dog when he knows we're going outside when I'm at home

I don't wear socks and the reason why I'm telling you this is what happens is when we're going outside to the walk for the bush or whatever the first thing I do is go to my bedroom and put socks on as soon as he sees me put socks on he literally gets I'm trying to put them on he's bumping my hands because he pumped right he's not helping me very much but he knows so it's so cool then then he knows okay get in the van the vest is there at least let's go and so he's got these different cues that he knows he knows when things fun or about to happen the other thing that he does when we're at work meaning if I'm in a big social setting my wife peg pegged at the best calling at his strut he's got like a strut to him when when he's pumped a there so we'll start walking and he's like it's hard to explain he looks like like a horse trotting and so you know he's happy and and that just makes me happy right then he never ever ever seems to get tired of doing anything so yeah he's he's so much fun to have have around he has his things he loves and I know he loves being with me I would in public and doing his job because just of his reactions the way he deals with

people and other people yeah he's good