Chichester College students welcomed veterans and their trainee service dogs for an extra special ‘flight’ this week.
Service Dogs UK provide specially-trained assistance dogs to veterans from the Armed Forces and Emergency Services suffering with PTSD.
As part of this, nine veterans and their dogs visited the college’s mock aircraft cabin to gain experience of being inside a cabin and the associated experience that brings – from cabin crew interaction to in-flight announcements.
It also provided a unique opportunity for the college’s cabin crew students.
Sophie Kitt, lecturer at Chichester College, said: “We were delighted to be contacted by the team at Service Dogs UK and to be able to welcome them to the college.
“As cabin crew, they are likely to host service or assistance dogs on board flights and it’s important for them to also understand what a service dog is and how best to work with passengers with service dogs – such as how to approach them and what they should or shouldn’t do.
“It was also fantastic for our students to spend time with the veterans and to hear their stories. They learnt a lot from them, and we are grateful to Service Dogs UK for the experience.”
One of the veterans, who attended with his dog Jerry, said: “This has been a fantastic opportunity for us.
“It’s lovely to meet people and lovely to come into the college – we’re all a bit older and probably forgotten what colleges are about!
“But to have this facility – the mock up cabin – is absolutely superb and to see the students so smartly dressed, doing such a good job. It’s just nice for everyone I think.”
Service Dogs UK carefully selects rescue dogs, who are then partnered with a veteran who works with the charity’s team of professional do trainers to train their dogs and achieve the required ADI (Assistance Dogs International) accredited-standards.
The dogs are a life-line for their veterans, providing life-changing – even life-saving – emotional support.
Jordan, another of the veterans, said: “Teddy has, quite literally, saved my life. He’s just changing my world every day and I don’t feel worthy to have him. He’s everything to me.”
Garry Botterill CF, Operations Director at Service Dogs UK, added: “We are very grateful to the team at Chichester College for the way they warmly welcomed our veterans and helped take them through the flight experience.
“We like to train for reality and we love training in the community!
“Training at the college was a great opportunity to work in a different environment and to meet so many lovely students and staff. This sort of local support really means a lot to our veterans and they and their dogs are now much better equipped for when they take their next plane journey, thank you!”
To find out more about Service Dogs UK, visit their website: www.servicedogsuk.org