Man’s best friend should never be underestimated, according to former Australian Defence Force Corporal Kirby Stocks.
Mr Stocks is about to kayak 350 kilometres across Bass Strait, all in an effort to raise awareness for service dogs assisting veterans with post traumatic stress disorders.
When Mr Stocks left the army in 2016 after 14 years as a combat engineer, he was diagnosed with a multitude of illnesses including depression and chronic pain.
Recognising the significant impact service dogs have on soldiers living with PTSD and injuries, he said he was inspired to help.
“Dogs have long been recognised for their work with the blind,” he said.
“There is only limited awareness for their benefits in working with post-military PTSD sufferers and this something I would like to help change. To see first-hand military veterans flourish at civilian life thanks to the unfaltering loyalty, love and service of these hero animals is extraordinary.
“I am prepared to put my body through as many challenging adventures as it takes to raise awareness and much needed funds for this important cause.”
Mr Stocks is aiming to raise $25,000 for Brisbane-based charity Whiskey’s Wish, which provides training and support for service dogs.
Founder Scott Jackman served in East Timor and Afghanistan before being medically discharged with PTSD, and started the charity in 2014 in honour of his own service dog Whiskey, who he credits with saving his life.
Whiskey’s Wish currently has about nine qualified dogs and a further 50 in training and Mr Jackman said it costs about $25,000 to train each dog, including equipment.
“A service dog is defined as one that is individually trained to work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability,” he said.
“All our service dogs are trained as assistance dogs with specific tasks trained for their military veteran which might include mobility requirements like switching on lights, or fetching medication at certain times, compassion like affection during nightmares or just regular grocery shopping.
“Ultimately, the dog’s duties depend on the needs and disabilities of the military veteran or first responder.”
This will be the second time Mr Stocks has raised funds for PTSD awareness, after completing a 300-kilometre walk from Darwin to Katherine in May last year.
For the past two weeks he has been training along Tasmania’s East Coast and said his journey across the Bass Strait could take anywhere from nine days to a month, depending on the weather.
He is aiming to kayak about 41 kilometres a day, with nightly rest stops along the way and will be assisted by three other experienced kayakers.
The journey will start on Sunday from Little Musselroe on the state’s North East Coast, with the final destination at Port Welshpool South-East of Melbourne.
Donations to Kirby’s cause can be made online.