Dogs of peace: Tamworth-trained assistance dogs give peace of mind to troops

HELPERS: Peter Walters and John Jarrett from Young Diggers with their dogs Tucker and Sheeba. Photo: Gareth Gardner 091117GGD05
HELPERS: Peter Walters and John Jarrett from Young Diggers with their dogs Tucker and Sheeba. Photo: Gareth Gardner 091117GGD05

For one minute, we stop and remember.

It’s a minute marked down for November 11, every year, with its origins tethered to the armistice of World War I, ‘the Great War’.

A war that ended 99 years ago, out of living memory, immortalised in the history books.

It has only been 20 years since November 11th was formally dedicated to the “those who died or suffered for Australia's cause in all wars and armed conflicts”.

But it’s the commemoration’s dawn that makes it the most important day in the military calendar for Vietnam veteran John Jarrett.

“Remembrance Day, I think, is the most important military day of the year, because it was the laying down of arms,” Mr Jarrett said.

“It wasn’t about a battle where hundreds or thousands of people died.

“It was the laying down of arms; the troops were coming home.

“It was about peace and that’s why I celebrate it.”

Peace of mind for veterans has been Mr Jarrett’s mission for the last decade after he founded the Young Diggers organisation to help troops dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), years after leaving the conflict.

Mr Jarrett’s foundation soon added “The Dog Squad” which recruits rescued dogs from shelters, and trains them to become assistance pets for troops.

Recently, The Dog Squad established a base in Tamworth, in conjunction with the Oxley Dog Training Club on Swan St, its first regional operation in Australia.

Mr Jarrett has his own assistance dog, Sheeba, who has been by his side in the toughest times.

“I was going to finish things off one day,” he said.

“I just had enough.

“I went to bed early and I woke up at some point during the night and she was lying full-length just looking at me.

CEASEFIRE: One Vietnam veteran said Remembrance Day was an important day because it marks the end of fighting. Photo: Peter Hardin

CEASEFIRE: One Vietnam veteran said Remembrance Day was an important day because it marks the end of fighting. Photo: Peter Hardin

“She knew.”

Mr Jarrett said that Sheeba didn’t let him out her of sight for the next couple of days.

“She was just there all of the time,” he said.

“So much so, it gave me the shits, you’d turn around and fall over a frigging dog.”

Mr Jarrett has many tales of assistance dogs helping military and non-military people with a range of conditions, including one pooch that could forewarn its epileptic owner about an oncoming seizure and another that helped a child with Asperger’s communicate with her parents.

“It’s not a cure, but it is such an assistance,” he said.

“With a troop, the dog’s got his back when he’s out in public.

“You’ve got that security, the same as when you’re in a combat area and your mate’s got your back.”