The Royal Canadian Legion in Corner Brook just welcomed a four-legged member as a way to educate people on post-traumatic stress disorder service dogs.
The legion welcomed Spark, a service dog for military veteran Mike Rude, as an honorary member last weekend in a special ceremony.
The two made headlines in November when they were kicked out of the Valley Mall in Corner Brook after security guards questioned Rude — who suffers from PTSD — about Spark’s validity as a service dog.
That story got the attention of Greg Schroh of the Corner Brook legion, who thought the incident spoke to the larger issue of people being less welcoming of service dogs for sufferers of PTSD compared with people who faced other ailments.
“I was actually infuriated over the situation and I told Mike at one point in time that if I was there, I would have totally lost it,” Schroh told CBC’s Corner Brook Morning Show.
“I just kept thinking of what he was going through. I know Spark was always welcome at the legion, but I thought it was time to make a precedent out of this.”
Rude said when Schroh came to him asking if he would be OK with Spark becoming a member, he immediately agreed.
He’s also hopeful that Spark’s membership will educate people that PTSD service dogs are just as legitimate as any other kind of service animal.
“I can’t explain how much it means to me and I would almost say it’s the biggest single act of kindness that I’ve had,” Rude said.
Legion members in Corner Brook are ecstatic about Spark’s membership, Schroh said, and they all recognize the key role the dog plays in calming Rude down and helping him when he’s anxious or dealing with the effects of PTSD.
Rude said Spark helps him in a variety of ways, from keeping him active and giving him a reason to get up and out the door every day, to being close when he needs support during a challenging moment.
“The biggest thing is that I’m never alone anymore. She’ll always be there with me. She’ll listen to me rant and rave sometimes and she’ll come up next to me when I’m upset,” he said.
While giving Spark an honorary membership is mostly symbolic — she doesn’t get a special commemorative food bowl or anything of that sort — Schroh said the dog will always be welcomed and pampered when she’s with her friends at the legion.
“But to see Mike smile and to see him relax — that’s the biggest perk right there.”