Dogs of Invictus

Dogs of Invictus

Marianne Prigly, ADM(PA) ~

The Canadian edition of the Invictus Games held in Toronto in September brought athletes, their families, and friends to Toronto from around the world.

Athletes, who were able, brought their service dogs to support them during this exciting, but also potentially stressful event. However, those making the journey from countries as far away as New Zealand had to leave their support dogs at home.

Enter the St. John Ambulance Therapy Dogs Toronto Pack. During the week of the Games, they provided therapy dogs of all sizes and breeds to help athletes who were without the support of their own service dogs.

“We’re doing four-hour shifts with our dogs, and the athletes are really enjoying interacting with the dogs,” said Christine, handler of Dexter, a Cavalier/Brittany Spaniel, during the Games.

The dogs and their handlers spent hours boosting spirits at the Toronto Sheraton, which served as the Athletes’ Village during the Games.

Christine also explained the difference between service and therapy dogs.

“A service dog is specially trained to assist its owner with a specific condition, like post-traumatic stress disorder, whereas therapy dogs are selected for their calm and patient dispositions and provide comfort simply by their presence and interaction with people.”

When not working at a special event such as the Invictus Games, St. John Ambulance therapy dogs provide comfort and companionship to people in the community. Seniors, sick children, palliative care patients, and the physically or mentally challenged have all enjoyed regular visits from therapy dogs and their handlers.

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