Interview with @ asistafoundation
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
The Asista Foundation is a not-for-profit organization which was established in 2011 to serve the entire Canadian population. The foundation holds a dual purpose; to offer rescued dogs a second chance at life by training them to become service dogs and to provide aid to the most vulnerable of our society; children and adults suffering from mental health conditions. Asista service dogs receive extensive training and are provided to their partners free of charge. The service dog teams receive continuous support from the Asista Foundation throughout their partnership.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started doing this?
We all have a story, including the dogs under our care. Our dedicated team of behaviourists at Asista assess dogs from local shelters and are selected for their exceptional temperament and willingness to work. Many abandoned dogs possess all the qualities that would make them ideal candidates to fill the service dog role. At Asista, we believe that these dogs deserve a chance to fulfill a greater purpose.
The dogs are placed with commited foster families who undertake the important task of desensitising the dogs to various environments and situations 24/7. The dogs leave their fosters well rounded, well-loved and ready to embark on their next phase of training.
The admissions team processes the influx of applications from people who fulfill conditions necessitating the support of a service dog. While the demand is extensive, the foundation offers a wide range of service dog programs in order to have the greatest impact on this vulnerable population.
Once an Asista service dog is matched with their new partner, extensive specialized training will begin to ensure the dog can offer the best support; Be it to intervene or redirect attention if their partner is experiencing a panic attack, to aid in reducing the feeling of isolation of a partner experiencing depression, to offer physical guidance to a partner with reduced mobility or even to comfort a person experiencing a crisis. The Asista service dogs are capable of learning, adapting to their partners needs and do so with enthusiasm.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them thrive and not “burn out”?
“Mental Health” has gained importance over the years and the stigma which once was attributed to this topic is fading. 1 in 5 Canadians experience the difficult effects of mental health struggles in their lifetime, 1 in 59 children are born with autism. This is a reality which undoubtedly touches us all, and the Asista foundation continues to raise awareness and offer support to the community. It is clear that the need for more specialized services and support for those struggling with mental health issues is paramount.
The Asista service dogs offer a vast array of support to their partners who suffer from the following conditions:
• Post-traumatic stress disorder
• Acute anxiety disorder
The foundation’s intention is to improve the quality of life of those who are a part of this vulnerable group and to foster community involvement from those fortunate enough to not be.
None of us can succeed without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Following my military career in the Canadian Armed Forces, I was diagnosed with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) after my overseas missions. I had a severe accident which caused me to be hospitalized for 2 and a half years because of multiple fractures (26) and the amputation of a leg and an arm.
I had recurrent nightmares, hypervigilance, stress, and anxiety. I lost all my bearings as well as my physical and mental health. When I left the hospital, I moved back to my hometown to give myself a chance to start my life over.
In September 2017, I had the chance to get my dog Toby, a big 2-year-old boy, trained by the Asista Foundation, located in the Centre Vétérinaire Laval. Toby is a mix of golden retriever and labrador. He was found homeless at 6 months old. After a year and a half of training, he was given to me by the Asista Foundation.
As soon as he was home, Toby and I immediately adapted to each other. He takes care of me, and I do the same with him. That’s our priority. I left home more often in the first two months we were together than I ever did in the two years before his arrival. Toby took me out of my isolation. Thanks to him, I now have a normal life and an extraordinary social life. Without him, I wouldn’t be alive. I have to say that Toby really did save my life.
Nutrition is really important to me, so it is also important for Toby. I want Toby to have the most balanced life possible, because with 2-3 hours of fun walks, 2-3 hours of work as a service dog, and nap and play time, he absolutely needs a superior food to have all the energy he requires to surpass himself during those rather tiring days. Therefore, I followed the Asista Foundation’s advice, and give Toby Nutrience SubZero food. He loves it and it shows perfectly by all the energy he has despite our intense days. A balanced life is what I want and prioritize for both of us.
My stress, hypervigilance and anxiety greatly diminished with Toby by my side. The focus is on him and not on me. People only see Toby and not my physical and mental disabilities. So, Toby’s mental and physical health are also essential because he must be alert to my symptoms. He’s always at my side because of my daily symptoms.
Toby is always ready to work and happy to follow me everywhere, e.g., on fun walks, at the gym, on flights, at the grocery store, to medical appointments, etc. It’s essential that his nutrition is complete and energizing. This beautiful 115-pound dog also needs energy to pull me through the snow because I’m still in a wheelchair. Also, since everyone is always focused on Toby, most people haven’t even noticed that I started walking again after 7 years in a wheelchair… To my greatest pleasure, Toby remains the centre of attention for everyone, which takes a huge stress off my shoulders.
I’ll say it again because it’s really important to me. Toby took me out of my isolation and gave me a perfectly normal and balanced social life. He saved my life, so he deserves the best: Nutrience SubZero food, and nothing less. Toby completely changed my life, so I want him to be a priority for me and the happiest dog this Earth has ever seen.
The Asista Foundation gave us both a second chance at life, so we plan on making the most of it, 100% of the time, and nothing less.
I want to thank Asista, Nutrience, Toby… and life.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
For the Asista Foundation, it’s about giving a second chance to the person and the dog at the same time. Our mission is to provide and maintain a therapeutic relationship to help children and adults cope with mental health conditions through the use of service dogs. Moreover, our services aim is to better integrate people into society.
Do you have a favourite “written Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?
It’s about helping out our community, whether you’re an athlete, a business titan, a teacher, a worker working to deliver essential services, we all have a story that deserves to be told.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
They can follow us through our instagram page @asistafoundation or our Facebook page at @fondationasista
Anything specific you’d like to have mentioned in the article?
If you need to pull information from the website of the organization it is www.asista.ca