Little dog with a big heart

The brave individuals who wear the cloth of this great nation deserve our deepest respect and gratitude. Many struggle with the invisible psychiatric wounds of an unconventional and terrifying war. They bore witness to horrific suffering and unspeakable abuses that are beyond ordinary citizens’ ability to comprehend. Many are alone, feel dismissed and isolated. Some feel a continuous sense of shame and worthlessness. Their injuries include depression, panic attacks, fixations on their missions, sleeplessness, nightmares, anxiety, impaired social functioning, traumatic brain injuries, post traumatic stress disorder and amputations, paralysis, and other operational stress injuries. Many of our veterans’ lives can be saved and tremendously improved with a specially trained service dog.

Meet soon-to-be service dog Skittles. She is a six month-old Amaley Sheltie puppy with an extraordinary purpose. She is ready and waiting to commit her life to a veteran, who has given some of the best years of his/her life in the service of Canada and returned home with severe operational-related wounds and disabilities. Skittles will soon be in the service of someone who will cherish her for her entire life as she devotes herself to the welfare of one of Canada’s best.

Skittles was born in Manitoba on June 14, 2014. She is intelligent, has a beautiful disposition and is exceedingly gentle and friendly. She started her service dog training when she was six weeks old and is being trained to Level 3, which is the highest standard and the most complex training done by Courageous Companions dog trainers. She will be paired with a veteran with multiple disabilities which could include missing limbs, seizures, debilitating anxiety, brain trauma, vision and hearing impairment, or severe psychological injuries.

Skittles is a Level 3 service dog trained to assist Canadian veterans with multiple disabilities. The members of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 13 are hoping to raise the $10,000 cost to train and place Skittles with a veteran. PHOTO: Submitted
Skittles is a Level 3 service dog trained to assist Canadian veterans with multiple disabilities. The members of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 13 are hoping to raise the $10,000 cost to train and place Skittles with a veteran.
PHOTO: Submitted

Meghan Search and Rescue, a training standards organization, and Courageous Companions (, a non-profit organization supporting veterans, are training Skittles to provide psychiatric support, deliberately disobey and redirect the veteran’s negative behavior, prevent or interrupt emotional overload, awaken the veteran from nightmares, provide a calming effect, do crowd control and panic prevention in public, arouse the veteran from fear or disassociating episodes, assist a veteran to leave an area by finding an exit, identify danger and hazards that a veteran may not be aware of, help the veteran to feel calm in congested space by expanding the space, and detect seizures and high blood pressure. All of this is a very big job for a little dog with a big heart, and she is up to it!

In the Courageous Companions program, there are no costs to the veterans. Sponsors cover expenses. They have 31 dogs ready to go to veterans and another 43 veterans with dogs waiting to continue their training, but demand exceeds their ability to keep pace with funding.

One solution to address the waiting list may lie with the Royal Canadian Legion. According to their Dominion Command, the 2013 annual Poppy Campaign raised $14 million, and the amount for 2014 is expected to be greater. Each branch of the Legion has the ability to provide 25 per cent of their Poppy Funds for service dogs. That’s $3.5 million nationally. That may be enough to provide a service dog for every qualifying and waiting veteran in Canada.

Branch 13 of the Royal Canadian Legion, a progressive, caring, and take-action bunch, has stepped up a second time to save a life of a veteran and is trying to fund Skittles. They are a true testament to the purpose of the Legion – to help veterans. Their tenacity of purpose is inspiring, but they could use a little help.

If you wish to send a Valentines Donation to Skittles, mail or drop off your donations c/o Bob Murdoch, The Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 13, 1577 Kingston Rd., Toronto, M1N 1S3.

If you would like a charitable tax receipt please donate through Canadian Legacy at


UPDATE: Shortly after writing this article I was informed that the Royal Canadian Legion’s Ontario Provincial Command will no longer permit the province’s branches to allocate any Poppy Funds to service dogs. They could not be reached for comment.

One would expect a Legion governing body to put veterans first. Rather than render such an abrupt ending, temporary or otherwise, they should have at least put into place an interim strategy to mitigate the suffering of veterans by using the standards for service dog training currently available while they try to resolve whatever it was that caused them to end the funding, without notice or warning.

A dog’s life is short when compared to the inertia of any big bureaucracy. I hope little Skittles, our dog with a big heart, won’t die with a broken one and neither will the veteran, while they wait for their Legion to bring back funding. Although Branch 13 was depending on the use of Poppy Funds to help sponsor Skittles, they remain a champion of this cause, and will continue to honour their pledge of service and carry on with their fundraising. Without Poppy Funds they will need hundreds of bake sales to raise the needed $10,000.

If you wish more information try calling the Royal Canadian Legion Ontario Command at 905-841-7999.

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Not sure what you are referring to. We are trying to set this dog free to have a happy life with an owner who will cherish her.

Why don’t you try being part of the solution. I do agree however that we are not particularly great custodians of our planet, but at least I am trying.

Glennis Skittles may wait most of her life for funding because our Legions won’t allow funds to go to her. These funds are held in the public trust known as Poppy Funds. There is a veteran waiting for her, who may have no left arm and no left leg and post traumatic stress disorder-they will never unite and the Legion is the problem in my opinion. Skittles needs your help. Raise hell about this.

Thank you for taking the time to comment.

one is left wondering what the Legion funds have been re-allocated to? As service dogs provide a practical, concrete, every-hour assistance to damaged veterans, I can’t fathom what a better program would be for the profits from poppy sales. My brother-in-law has been lucky enough to add Snow, a service dog, to their family after months and months of filling out forms and waiting, and Snow’s presence has had a huge, positive impact on the quality of his life.

I am delighted to hear that, and thanks for a constructive statement it is appreciated. I as a member of the Legion, ask the same questions and cant get an answer. The Legion is hiding behind the fact, and it is a fact, that there is no National Standard for service dogs. But Dominion Command in their wisdom allows for conditional interim funding and Ontario Provincial Command refuses to follow the policy because they are apparently investigation sub standard practices and Courageous Companions has the highest standard in Canada and exceeds Assistive Dog International standards. May service dog providers can’t meet the standard, so rather than meet a high standard they undermine it. That is NOT to say that there are not other really good service dog providers in Canada and Ontario. The comment below by someone named Curious George is a great example of the struggle and ignorance about the issue. I am very happy about your brother-in-law and his service dog. Meanwhile Courageous Companions have 47 veterans and 47 dogs ready for pairing with an injured Canadian Veteran and there are no funds available and if the funders like the Legion, who is becoming more irrelevant by the minute, wait for a National Standard, wounded veterans will be waiting for 2-3 years for a dog. Anyone who knows anything about PTSD will know the hell the veterans will ender while waiting for government. It is a sad and miserable issue, with no relief in sight.

Best thing to do as a member of the donating public is to ask Provincial Command and/or Dominion Command of the Royal Canadian Legion.

So why does the article say 10 grand when Courageous Companions tried to bill BR#21 IN Langley BC $4600? Confusing to say the least

Maybe because it is a level 3 dog. Do your homework.
Ever service dog has different costs. Call them and they will explain it to you.

By-the-way, ask your pals out there in BC way they turned away 27 PTSI/TBI veterans asking the Legions for help. Don’t get back to me about this, I know the answer.

Use your real name as well.

I think the Langley Legion would be happy knowing that it costs $5100 less than the estimate. Further proof that Courageous Companions is not pocketing the remaining money. The $10,000 is if they have a puppy: purchase; shots; spay/neuter; food; training; airfare (depending on location, timings, etc); lodging; food; transportation; vests; additional transportation lodging etc for certification.


Thanks for your support. If everyone looked at what’s important…getting help to the members and ensuring the dogs are properly trained, so many more would be doing better. Shame on these people and/or organizations that are playing politics on people’s lives, all because of jealousy or greed. I joined my local legion and they are fully supportive of Courageous Companions and Service Dogs that are properly trained for PTSD.

Hey Pipes… journalistic integrity would dictate that you publish the whole story and not data mine the facts and get all passive aggressive “Pokey Chest” when someone asks a legitimate question.

So you say that the funders are not funding service dog programs. Is that just one or all?

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