Riders are hitting trails for the dogs, but they are only doing it on two wheels.
Mountain bikers across the Comox Valley are invited to participate in the second annual bike ride for Vancouver Island Compassion Dogs – a trail ride in late June with all funds raised going towards the organization, which creates bonds with veterans and service dogs.
VICD CEO Barb Ashmead said the idea came about through a partnership with the Strathcona Sunrise Rotary. From that, the idea to cycle on a mountain bike trail from Sayward to Comox with a celebratory dinner afterwards was formed.
“We have a goal to increase from 12 dogs a year to 16, 18 and we would ideally like to top it up to 24 to 30,” she added.
The organization creates partners between a service dog and a veteran. Each team is led through twice-weekly training sessions for 52 weeks, with the goal of having a fully certified Stress Injury Service and Support Dog that remains in the veteran’s care.
Dogs learn to be emotionally tuned to their person and his or her unique triggers – especially with veterans with PTSD, said Ashmead. The dogs are able to wake veterans from nightmares, ground them from a hyper-aroused state and support them unconditionally through the stress and trauma of everyday life.
In four-and-a-half years, the program has worked with 34 teams and has had 11 teams graduate, while the rest are working towards graduation.
Funds raised will go towards the program; Ashmead explained it takes about $20,000 per team to progress through the program.
VICD works with veterans across Vancouver Island, and with two major Canadian Forces bases on the Island, the organization covers all the associated fees – including gas for travel from the veteran’s home to training sessions.
“They have served us; now it’s our chance to serve them,” added Ashmead.
On June 24, riders will begin their ride from Sayward south, with an overnight stop in Campbell River. The ride culminates June 25 at Air Force Beach in Comox with riders arriving around 4:30 p.m. From 5 to 7 p.m., there will a fundraising dinner, with a Marine Harvest salmon BBQ. Tickets for the dinner are $20 for adults and $10 for children.
Anyone interested in participating in the mountain bike course is asked to register in advance; a $400 fundraising minimum is required, and riders are required to find their own overnight accommodations in Campbell River.
To register for the ride, call Ashmead at 250-954-5552. Tickets for the dinner are available in advance for adults at the Comox Valley Animal Hospital and are also available the day of the event.