They say a dog is a man’s best friend. Chances are a Mr Paul Wilkie would agree. For the former soldier credits Irma, the companion dog he was given to help him deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, with saving his life. Having served tours in Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq, Mr Wilkie was left suffering from terrible nightmares and flashbacks after he left the army. His PTSD was so chronic he couldn’t even watch his football team St Johnstone play, as the cheering would trigger a reaction. Mr Wilkie’s life soon unravelled. He lost his wife, home and job and ended up living in a forest in Perthshire. Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland’s Kaye Adams Programme, Mr Wilkie said: “There’s a lot of baggage that comes with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – severe depression and anxiety attacks. That’s why I lived in a forest. I couldn’t face anyone. I was hyper-vigilant. You think somebody is going to do something to you.” The fact that Mr Wilkie can talk about his condition shows how far he has come since those dark days. The turnaround in his fortunes can be traced back to 2016 when Mr Wilkie was given Irma by Bravehound, a charity that trains dogs to comfort veterans suffering from PTSD. Mr Wilkie said: “Irma and Bravehound have pretty much saved my life to be honest. What Irma does is she will jump on my chest and lick my face and it wakes me up out of the flashback or the nightmare. So instead of going through the whole thing, she brings me out of it quickly. She is amazing, she reads me like a book. She knows when I am upset, she knows when I am angry, she reads all my emotions. If someone approaches me she will stand in front of me to guard me because I am still on the defensive, weighing people up in the street.” Irma has had such a positive effect on Mr Wilkie’s life that he now lives in a cottage with Irma, along with a pet duck called North and a cat named Mr Tibbs. “The armed forces charity SSAFA in Perth were the first to help me out and then Perth Council stepped in and got me a wee cottage…We are a wee happy family.” In recognition of what she has done for Mr Wilkie, who now helps other ex-soldiers settle back into life after the army, Irma was recently named Most Caring Animal in the UK by the RSPCA. A proud Mr Wilkie added: “I was so amazed she won that but she deserves that living with me!” Now that is what you call a top dog.
June 6, 2018