Rustic retreat helps veterans and responders recuperate from PTSD

CTV News Calgary

A Canmore firefighter has created a safe haven to help veterans and first responders to reconnect and recover from the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Sheepdog Lodge was started by firefighter and EMT, Allan Russell, after he saw a need for support in his own workplace.

“The people who we’re targeting, I guess, or want to bring out here are all the places that I worked at, the military, police officers, firefighters, paramedics, EMTs,” he said.

Russell’s uncle donated a property located about 45 kilometres east of Ponoka to provide a place for veterans and first responders to help them manage PTSD without medication.

“He said well why don’t you, why don’t we create something here that people can come to and just get away from the world and let’s focus on veterans and first responders,” said Russell.

Guests at the lodge are encouraged to bring their families and are hosted by someone of the same profession who knows what the stresses are and the effects they have on family life.

The facility is Wi-Fi free so guests can unplug from the rest of the world while they rest and recuperate.

“This place is a place for them to get away, to restart, to recuperate. It’s like hosting someone in your home,” said Russell. “You’re hosted by a veteran or first responder that speaks your language because we have a lot of different acronyms and unless you’ve been there, done that, it’s hard to explain to another person what you’re feeling or how you’re reacting to something but if you’re hosted by, say a paramedic hosting another paramedic they can totally talk the same language.”

Military veteran Scott Casey was part of a peace keeping mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina and has been living with PTSD since he was 25. He says facilities like Sheepdog Lodge are a welcome respite.

“You get away from everything. You don't have to worry about somebody being unsavory in your airspace. You’re on your own here, I mean the host is here, you're never here by yourself, so that's always a good thing. It just has a quality that can't be recreated at home, it's not going to happen,” said Casey.

Casey is also the President of Military Minds, a worldwide PTSD support group and he hopes to see a facility like Sheepdog Lodge in every province.

That dream may become a reality soon as Russell's uncle has already secured a property in Ontario to create another facility.

“We’re small but we’re growing like crazy right now,” said Russell.

According to Veterans Affairs, post-traumatic stress disorder affects nine percent of Canadians.

A fundraiser is being held to collect money to help support Sheepdog Lodge on February 5th at the Metropolitan Conference Centre, click HERE for more details.