Assistance dogs and PTSD: Garry Botterill’s Story

Author: Garry Botterill
Assistance dogs and PTSD: Garry Botterill’s Story

Garry Botterill travelled to the Netherlands and the USA to investigate the use of specially trained assistance dogs to help veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The Fellowship

Garry, a police sergeant from Chichester in Sussex, is the co-founder of Service Dogs UK, a charity which pairs assistance dogs with former military and emergency service personnel who have PTSD. Garry aimed to use his 2015 Fellowship to ensure his nascent organisation was informed by the best possible practice.

Garry’s Fellowship began with a visit to Bergin University of Canine Studies in California, the home of the assistance dog, where, as a mock client, he learnt how to train an assistance dog named Lance. He then met Lindsey Stanek from Paws and Stripes, whose assistance dogs come exclusively from rescue shelters. He was left in no doubt that these dogs are just as capable of becoming assistance dogs as their specially bred counterparts, with considerable savings in time and costs.

His time in the Netherlands provided Garry with valuable insights into how issues relating to clients’ suitability and legality can be resolved, as well as enabling him to learn special training techniques where dogs actively interrupt nightmares and flashbacks.

The Results

Thanks to the experience Garry gained from his Fellowship, Service Dogs UK has gone from strength to strength. The organisation’s model involves a partnership between the veteran and the assistance dog in which they undertake training together. The first two veterans to be provided with assistance dogs have completed the course and are fully accredited, while a third partnership is now underway. Garry (pictured left with Judith Broug, co-founder of Service Dogs UK, and Mark, a veteran who has completed Service Dogs UK’s course, with his service dog Jerry) has seen how the training is making a real difference to participants, with the veterans reporting they feel able to “laugh and live again”.

Since his Fellowship, Garry has given talks to both colleagues in the police and veterans’ networks, and he was also invited to be a guest speaker at the Animals in War Memorial ceremony. He has become a Sussex Armed Forces Network Champion for the police and a Mental Health Advocate for Sussex Police.

Read more Fellows' Stories in Mental Health