Ontario K9 supporting local veterans through service dog pairings


Over the past year, a dog training facility in Kingsville has been working to assist local veterans dealing with PTSD by pairing them with service dogs to help ease their issues.

Ontario K9 is a local organization that specializes in training dogs, but have turned their focus to training service dogs for former military members and as they expand they're looking to provide dogs for first responders as well.

Owner and head trainer Ryan Isley says the operation is still fairly new, and that he breeds and trains all the dogs himself with the occasional assist from some of his friends.

Since putting the focus on service dogs to help veterans, Isley says he's been able to pair four dogs up with owners which he believes is a pretty good start considering their website is still undergoing development for an application process.

"The veterans so far that we've paired have just heard about us through word of mouth and they reached out, filled out an application, we checked it out and said 'OK sounds good'. And then the pairing process begins from there."

He says during the pairing process they have to collect sponsors from throughout Essex County, and once that's done, the dogs are good to go.

The process of matching and training a service dog is a meticulous and personalized journey, tailored to the individual needs of each veteran. 

The training for a dog who'll be living with someone who deals with PTSD is different than a dog who would be living with a family, as Isley explains they want the dog to improve their quality of life not stress them out.

"Our job is to raise the dog from start to finish, and then when the dog is finished the training process we go over to the pairing process where we bring the veteran in," he continued. "The veteran meets the dog, and then the veteran trains here and does intensive training for seven to 14 days."

After that, the veteran would come back three weeks later just to make sure the dog is pairing up with them nicely, and then a final follow-up 90 days later where they would begin specific training related to PTSD.

The latest veteran from Ontario to become the recipient of a highly trained service dog is a woman by the name of Stacey, which Isley says marks a significant milestone in her journey towards healing and improved well-being.

Isley says Stacey's journey with Ontario K9 underscores his organization's steadfast commitment to supporting veterans who have served our country with honour.

Stacey's service dog, the result of dedicated training spanning several months, is prepared to assist with tasks specifically designed to address her PTSD-related struggles. 

Isley says this has been the first week that Stacey and her service dog Wren have been together, and the last correspondence he received from her indicated things are going great.

"Yesterday she sent me a text message at 8:48 a.m. saying 'such a surreal feeling waking up in the house with her, so incredible'. She was expressing her thankfulness, and I'm set see Stacey again in three weeks to just to touch base and make sure the dog is functioning as its supposed to," he said.

Isley says the collaboration between Ontario K9 and Stacey reflects his organization's unyielding commitment to veterans and their well-being. 

He says they're always looking for community partners and sponsors to be able to help more veterans.

Isley gave a shout out to the Passing the Torch committee in McGregor, who recently decided they were going to close their doors, and left the remaining balance in their bank account to Ontario K9 which amount to a $772 donation.

More information about the organization, their comprehensive services offered, and support for veterans in Ontario can be found on the organization's website.