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Canines comfort cadets at camp

This summer, like past summers, air cadets of all ages gathered at CFB Trenton for their annual summer camp. Cadets leaving home for the first time can often feel homesick or stressed out from a new environment, and that’s where St. John Ambulance’s Therapy Dogs come to the rescue.

“The Therapy Dogs that attend the cadet camp seem to help a lot of the kids relax and feel more comfortable as they are getting to connect with a nonjudgmental dog who doesn't care if they are good at drill or other military activities,” explained Joyce Fowler the Therapy Dog Program Coordinator for St. John Ambulance.
Founded in 1940, the Air Cadet Organization’s training camp invites boys and girls of all ages between 12 and 19 to improve on citizenship and leadership skills, physical fitness and to increase awareness of the Royal Canadian Air Force. Fowler explained that the Therapy Dogs do a good job in alleviating any stress and homesickness the children may feel while at camp.
“They talk freely with the handlers about feeling lonely or sad as they are away from home for the first time and miss their families as well as their own dogs or other pets. The cadets are openly enthusiastic about seeing the dogs and say it is the best part of their week. They say it makes them feel good to sit and pet the dogs and that they miss their own pets less because of this,” stated Fowler.

With a visit from man’s best friend three times a week, the cadets get a change of pace from days filled with activities in the fields of aviation, marksmanship, music, Aerodrome Operations and many more.

“It is like a little piece of homecoming to visit for a few minutes. It is a proven fact that blood pressures are lowered, and anxiety levels decreased through petting a Therapy Dog. Those that are having a bad day come and pet the dogs and leave with spirits lifted and feeling better about the day that has been bad to them,” said Fowler.

Though the Therapy Dogs have no specific training, they do have to pass a series of tests to ensure they are well suited for the job. The 42 Therapy Dog teams go from hospital to nursing homes spreading cheer. Other programs the dogs are part of range from visiting Loyalist College in Belleville during exam time to PAWS a program giving children who have difficulty reading a chance to read aloud to the training dogs. The teams visit a total of 32 facilities in Belleville, Trenton, and the County.

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