We’ve known seven-year-old, Elite Service Dog, Gambler, for almost six years now. As each day goes by, we become more and more impressed by Gambler and his dad. They share a bond and a partnership that surpasses ‘friendship.’ They – quite literally – saved each other’s lives. Here’s the story of how Bill and Gambler found each other.
Bill (Sgt. Nachuk, G6 Ops Sgt. CTC HQ) joined the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) in 1997 and completed multiple tours to Bosnia, Syria, Israel and Afghanistan. In 2008, Bill was in Afghanistan as part of the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. This is a well-trained and equipped operations unit that defends Canadian interests abroad or at home. The unit has also been instrumental in assisting civil authorities during national disasters in Canada. As a Signals Operator, Bill’s duties of each tour changed regularly.
In 2009, Bill was undergoing treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) but he realized that his symptoms decreased when he was in the company of a dog. At the time, he was living in Brandon, Manitoba, so began searching local rescues in the area for a dog.
Bill says, “I saw a picture of Gambler and something about him really connected with me. I decided to meet him, and the instant we met, I knew he was the dog for me. He was only one-and-a-half years old at the time, and was abandoned as a puppy.”
Bill decided to keep Gambler’s name, as that was the name he had while he was in rescue and Bill liked it. After only a few months together, Bill’s doctor began noticing a significant improvement in Bill’s mental health. They both agreed that Gambler was the reason Bill’s health was getting better.
From there, they discussed the possibility of having him trained as a Service Dog (not a therapy dog, which is a very different designation). Bill contacted the Manitoba Search and Rescue (MSAR). Their Master Dog trainer, George Leonard, had just recently completed a presentation to the CAF on the benefits of PTSD Service Dogs. Bill and Gambler met with George, who determined that Gambler was an ideal candidate for Service Dog training – he and Bill had already created a tremendous bond of trust and love. Plus, Gambler was already indicating when he noticed a negative chance in Bill’s mental health. Gambler would break Bill’s cycle of thought at that time and to bring him back to the moment.
They trained together and then after doing public access work in malls, restaurants, etc, Gambler was ready to do his final Service Dog test. He passed with an outstanding 100%! Bill says, “This was no surprise to me!” In the spring of 2011, Gambler became an official, Certified Service Dog.
From there, Bill and Gambler began to make history:
· Gambler was the first PTSD Service Dog ever allowed on the Canadian military base and permitted to join an active member at work on the base.
· He was the first PTSD Service Dog to be recognized by the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF).
· In November of 2011, Bill and Gambler appeared in CTV’s W5 episode, Canine Comrades. After that episode aired, it assisted other soldiers and first responders to come forward and ask for get assistance with their PTSD.
· They’ve spoken on Parliament Hill and to various media outlets on the benefits of Service Dogs for Military members and first responders.
· Gambler was nominated for Purina Animal Hall of Fame 2012.
Gambler continues to assist Bill at work, where he’s also become the unofficial mascot of the base! Gambler is somewhat of a celebrity in the area and has become well-loved by everyone. Gambler’s nature has a ripple effect and helps others who work with Bill. Gambler also has, as Bill puts it, “an endless amount of treats” in numerous offices around the base. People love to interact with Gambler and often visit Bill’s office just to see him. Bills calls this, “mobile therapy,” as he positively impacts others around the base. We know, from personal experience, how much he lights up the whole room when he comes to our hospital! Staff members, and clients alike, are drawn to Gambler’s calm nature and bright personality.
“I would really like to remind everyone that Gambler came from a rescue at the age of only one-and-a-half years old. I feel it’s important for people to realize that there are some truly amazing, loving and loyal animals available from a rescue – they all deserve a chance at having a loving family and home. I do not know where I would be, in both life and my career, without the love and assistance of Gambler.”
– Bill Nachuk, Gambler’s Dad
Although Gambler is certified and works specifically with PTSD, his story is indicative of the impact so many of our pets have on our health. We’re very honoured to have Gambler as a patient. He continues to make such a difference in so many people’s lives. Thank you to Gambler for being our very first Featured Pet at Oromocto Veterinary Hospital!