A puppy is a magical creature, especially in the hands of volunteers like Cindy Plettl-Jackson, who trains puppies as service dogs for PTSD sufferers. Plettl-Jackson, who owns Studs and Stilettos Images and Esthetics in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, began this rewarding work last year after encountering representatives from The NASH Project. NASH (which stands for Neglected Animals Serving Humanity) runs various therapy programs for people with PTSD and other special needs.

Cindy Plettl-Jackson

Cindy Plettl-Jackson

“As a foster family, we are committed to going to training once a week. Then we just incorporate everything into our daily routine,” she says. “We simulate the environment our particular dog will be dealing with — which might include things like opening doors, bringing medication, waking from a nightmare, or taking socks off.”

Information about the client who will receive the dog is kept confidential. “We do however get updated on how they are doing,” says Plettl-Jackson. “For the most part, we deal with veterans and first responders, but we do our best to help as many people as we can no matter their status.”

Plettl-Jackson grew up with dogs and considers herself a “dog person,” but the effects of an attack by a German shepherd when she was just 6 years old still linger. “I was playing at a neighbor’s house and when I went to pet their dog, he attacked me in the face,” she recalls. “Since then I still get a touch nervous around dogs. This work has really helped me to overcome that fear.”

Plettl-Jackson is dedicated to the mission of transforming lives with the aid of service dogs. “Service dogs save lives and people need to be aware that service dogs are now being used for people with invisible disabilities. It’s amazing to watch their positive impact on people’s lives.”

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