Fire Team K-9’s Inc. changing the lives of veterans, first responders one service dog at a time

January 11, 2022
By: Tina Peplinskie
Photos: Kat Forder
Publishing date: Dec 20, 2021
service dogs in ontario
A local non-profit corporation with the mission to source, train, and match service dogs with veterans and first responders has continued to grow and thrive despite the pandemic.

Fire Team K-9’s Headquarters in Pembroke opened in September 2020, providing grooming, dog day care and pet training classes and workshops all to fund Fire Team K-9’s service dogs program. The organization’s name pays homage to the smallest unit in the Canadian Forces, the fire team. A fire team is two soldiers who depend on each other. The service dogs are partnered with their handler to serve as their fire team partner for life. Fire Team K-9 knows that service dogs change lives and creating the right match is a priority so it will be there every step of the way to ensure bonding and success.

The founding non-profit Fire Team K-9’s Inc. was formed by retired Canadian military veterans based on the principle of partnership between dogs and their people. Fire Team K-9’s Inc. (FTK-9) is a proud service dog provider for Wounded Warriors Canada and the Royal Canadian Legion, Ontario Command.

FTK-9 service dogs are trained to help a veteran reintegrate into civilian life, noted Jen Hinch, director of operations and service dog co-ordinator.

“Often times our service dog is the missing piece of the puzzle for a veteran’s successful recovery from military life,” she added. “Soldiers are trained to rely on their fire team partner while serving in the military. Our service dogs are, in a sense, a fire team partner for civilian life. Having a partner by their side gives a veteran an increased sense of confidence and security, which in turn helps increase their chance of success after a life of military service.”

Since the Ottawa Valley has one of the largest concentrations of veterans across the province, the need for service dogs is great. During 2021, 15 service dogs have been going through the training process. Service dogs spend a minimum of 18 months to two years in training when they live with foster families. The service dogs in training are moved through different foster families which allows the animals to experience different homes and families as they learn and grow. FTK-9 service dogs spend hundreds of hours training and help their handlers by performing tasks such as nightmare and anxiety interruption and offer support in public.

The bond between a service dog and handler grows through extensive training together, over time, Hinch noted, adding the learning process is very similar to how a military unit functions seamlessly with experience and practice together.

“A service dog and handler pairing is a unique relationship formed by matching the right dog with the right handler,” she said. “By getting this match right both the dog and the veteran gain independence and a renewed purpose, together. Both service dogs and handlers are trained. They are taught to rely on and serve each other in a reciprocal partnership and the bonds that form are exceptional to witness.”

Highlights of the first year of business include serving more than 1,000 pets at the headquarters, offering eight different classes each month for dogs and their families and expanding the team of dedicated and qualified dog training instructors.

Fire Team K-9’s also has a community education and outreach component. Part of the organization’s mission is to provide education, awareness, training, and employment in the service dog industry. Through its services, training, workshops, and group activities it hopes to demonstrate the wonderful impact of K9 companions. Fire Team K-9 Headquarters employs a small staff and relies on many volunteers who dedicate hours to the cause.

Fire Team K-9’s also offers a student trainer program, which allows students to participate in dog training classes and work with service dogs while gathering community service hours required to graduate secondary school.  High school co-op students also work at K-9 Headquarters in the doggy day care. This school credit program allows students to get an education on dog behaviour, dog training, and general business knowledge.

Full article here

480 Boundary Road East Pembroke ON K8A 6L3

all rights reserved © FTK9 Inc.