Training service dogs a passion for Tatamagouche woman
There is no mistaking Rhonda Langille's passion in life. The 53-year-old Tatamagouche resident gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night thinking about therapeutic medical alert service dogs.
"My hope is to one day train and work full-time with service dogs," said Langille. "My hope is for a miracle and to eventually have a location to work from. This would allow me to both help veterans and civilians to bring hope to and brighten the lives of many individuals."
Langille has worked province-wide with a number of service veterans using a program she developed personally. Part of her story includes ‘Ben,' a red standard poodle she received in 2009 at eight weeks of age.
A year later she received a call from Krisdeean Steele who lived in East River near Hubbards.
"Her husband Jim was in the Canadian service and had returned from Afghanistan," said Langille. "Jim would not go out in public, he was having problems communicating, he had no sense of humour and he was bothered by light."
On Sept. 8, 2010, Langille donated Ben to Jim.
"Since that time I have seen Jim make great strides," Langille said. "The dog I trained and donated to Jim played a huge part. Ben would interrupt negative behaviour and it went from there. Jim began communicating, coming out in public and he has even spoke publicly.
"It brought me tears of joy. Jim Steele and his family feel that Ben is the miracle that they prayed for. The Steele's see Ben as a lifeline and a miracle worker."
Langille became interested in dogs as a youngster growing up in Halifax.
"My parents had a boarding house," Langille said. "Many of our boarders were service veterans who came from the old Camp Hill Hospital. We always had dogs and I learned right away about the love affairs that can develop between veterans and animals. It is something I have carried with me all my life."
With a work background as a personal care worker and doing EKG's at two Halifax hospitals, Langille moved to Tatamagouche during the early 1980s.
"For approximately 30 years I have lived between Tatamagouche, Truro and British Columbia," she said. "Because of my lifelong interest in dogs I went to Salmon Arm, B.C., in 2008 to learn more. It took some time but I received my certification for master dog training."
Returning to Tatamagouche late the same year, Langille began training service dogs and focusing especially on helping Canadian veterans.
"The dogs would eventually be donated to someone in need," Langille said. "I have also been working with dog trainers. I'm fully certified to teach trainers."
A dedicated individual, Langille has made it a point to contact government officials, MLAs, mental health groups, the Canadian Paraplegic Association as well as Veterans Ombudsman and others regarding her goal.
"Funding is a huge obstacle," she said. "There are many expenses involved but behind the scenes I appreciate that both companies and individuals have helped. I have to keep working to secure financial help and at present I'm very hopeful that two potential sponsors are going to become involved. I'm always interested in hearing from any interested people."
Langille has heard from wives of veterans and their husbands.
"It makes me want to do more."
To bring awareness to service dogs and her work regarding veterans, post traumatic stress disorder and anxiety disorders, Langille makes public appearances and puts on demonstrations.
"I want people to know what service dogs can or cannot do," she said. "And that a veteran, once trained by this program, will be able to work with another veteran."