The names of the people who served during times of war are read every Remembrance Day, but the animals who served with them are often forgotten.
From Nov. 8-11, however, Prairie Dog Sports in Blackfalds will honour people and their pets alike with Remembrance Day Weekend Barn Hunt Trials.
The event will feature the usual barn hunt trials, alongside a visit from representatives from Wounded Warriors.
“We’ve been hosting barn hunt trials for two years now, but with it being over the Remembrance Day weekend, we figured we’d theme it for Remembrance Day and invite Wounded Warriors to come, and hopefully raise funds for their PTSD canine program,” said Prairie Dog Sports Manager and Barn Hunt Instructor Shae Grismer.
Barn hunt trials, a relatively new dog sport that has only been in Canada for about five years, are open to spectators, with no cost for admission, and the event will run from 8 a.m. until about 6 p.m. at the Prairie Dog Sports facility at #43-27123 Hwy 597 East in the Burbank Industrial Park.
Canada has a long history of the use of dogs, as well as horses, and pigeons in war, from delivering messages to transportation and tracking. In recent times, canines have been used to find improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan. Rats – the typical prey in barn hunt (Alberta, being a rat-free province, uses gerbils instead) have also been used to that end.
Their use, particularly in the case of dogs, is actually increasing, too.
In December 2018, the Department of National Defence put out a public notice looking to purchase dogs, including German shepherds, such as those used at the Police Dog Training Centre in Innisfail, Dutch shepherds and Belgian Malinois between 10 mos. and three years of age.
“DND has a requirement for canines that demonstrates the characteristics and capabilities to successfully complete a demanding training program followed by working in a challenging operational environment,” the notice said, adding dogs needed to display sound temperament, ability to work with people, as well as and a “bold and confident attitude with no signs of either shyness or over-aggression.”
The Canadian government has also invested tens of thousands of dollars into protective vests for such canines.
Most recently, a dog named Conan was the only hero publicly recognized for the U.S. takedown of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
They’re not just being used on the battlefield, however – they’re helping veterans suffering from PTSD, or wounds, which is why Prairie Dog Sports will have representatives at their facility this weekend.
“The reason we picked Wounded Warriors is it hit both (dogs and veterans) with the program. The funds they raise help to train 100 dogs per year that they place with ill or injured veterans,” Grismer said.
“Dogs change lives – not only of individuals with PTSD or anxiety, but they can also affect the lives of their families. I’m sure a lot of pet owners understand the effect their pets have on their emotional well being and they’re not even trained to do the job.”
For information on Wounded Warriors’ PTSD dog program, visit woundedwarriors.ca/our-programs/ptsd-service-dog-program, and visit the Prairie Dog Sports Facebook page for more details on the event.