A THERAPY dog helping recovering military veterans who are struggling to adjust to civilian life has been recognised in a national award.
Milo is a cocker poo who is giving veterans a helping paw at Merryhue Farm near Callington, where they meet under a project called Battling On.
He has been nominated by the national Soldiering Awards (the annual Armed Forces Community Awards) along with a second nomination for the project’s partnership achievements. The finals presentations will be held at the House of Lords in September. The shortlist will be announced in London on July 18.
Battling On recognises that, despite their courage and devotion to duty, some service personnel find it difficult to settle back into civilian life after leaving the armed forces. Using eco-based methods, a variety of indoor and outdoor activities and ex-colleagues’ company, Battling On supports veterans by providing a safe, empathetic and non-judgemental environment. The veterans gather to take part in farm-based activities designed and led by them to help tackle mental health issues compounded by isolation and lack of self-esteem.
Matt Crew, 49, is a veteran of the RAF Regiment and says Milo has been a big factor in him recovering from mental health issue. He said: ‘I have been locked away at home for 18 months at home and was too scared to go out. I was struggling with my mental health, post traumatic stress disorder and generalised anxiety. I tried to take my own life, it got that bad. I was contacted at a real low in my life by Ossie who works here with Battling On’s mentor scheme and he suggested I come along and meet the rest of the lads, so we can share experiences and re-learn socialising. I knew I was socially isolated and so, I did come along.
‘I’m not fully there yet, but it’s now three and half years for me to get to this point and I’m far from socially fixed. But Milo has been a big impact on my recovery and my life. He is a major factor in motivating me to come to Battling On meets. When I first met him, he jumped into my car and mnuzzled me. He’s intuitive and senses when someone is in need of help.
‘I’m so proud Milo that he’s been nominated for such a prestigious award. I had him with me when we were presented to Princess Anne last year when she opened the Countryside Hub and gardens where we can join in many activities together, so he’s met royalty as well. I now have a dog of my own called Kara, because of Milo, and he loves Milo.’
Nikki Markham, who set up Merryhue Farm, said: ‘I’m really pleased at the nominations for the farm as a whole and for all the people involved including our community partners.’