Groundbreaking Program Places First Assistance Dog in Veteran's Mental Health Facility


Veterans receiving treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) at the Jamie Larcombe Centre have a new, four-legged friend to support them on the road to recovery.


Quattro, a four-year-old Labrador bred and trained by See Differently through its OPK9 program, has become the first therapy dog to be placed in a veterans mental health facility in South Australia.


Bright eyed and bushy tailed, Quattro is working with veterans and staff at the Jamie Larcombe Centre thanks to a partnership between Southern Adelaide Local Health Network, which operates the Centre, and See Differently.


The Centre’s newest recruit supports veterans to manage their anxiety in therapy sessions.


“He’s the first dog to be placed in a facility of this kind, actively working with veterans with PTSD and anxiety, as well as the staff,” Andrew Barnes, Senior Assistance Dog Instructor at See Differently said.


“At the Jamie Larcombe Centre, Quattro’s role is to recognise stress cues in veterans, and respond to that by grounding the veteran, calming them down, and helping them to reposition themselves emotionally and mentally.


“He acts as a point of focus away from the anxiety and stress cues, and allows individuals to talk more openly about how they’re feeling, which means the consultants can achieve a lot more with their patients.”


A graduate of See Differently’s OPK9 program, Quattro is well-qualified for his new role at the Centre, which was made possible with funds raised by the defence community at the Defence Teaming Centre’s 2021 Gala Dinner and Awards.


His gentle temperament and ability to connect with humans is already having a transformative impact on the veterans he supports in therapy sessions, Andrew said.


“Quattro has a beautiful temperament, and a beautiful way of connecting with people.


“He’s not overbearing, he’s very respectful…he displays a sensitivity that allows him to connect to the human spirit.


“He also brings a smile to people’s faces when he engages with staff and patients alike, which changes the mood of the place.”


While Quattro’s journey at the Jamie Larcombe Centre has only just begun, Dr Christopher Veale, Senior Consultant Psychiatrist and Unit Head, Veterans Mental Health at the Jamie Larcombe Centre said Quattro has been readily embraced by patients and staff alike.


“Quattro has settled in very well, and our patients love him,” Dr Veale said.


“He’s been superbly trained and he is a lovely and loyal dog.


“In one-on-one therapy sessions, he can sit at the veterans feet, put his head on their laps…he responds to distress by nuzzling, cuddling and putting his paw on a veteran’s leg – all forms of love.


“I have seen a massive increase in veterans wanting to apply for their own assistance dog after meeting Quattro in therapy.”


Quattro is one of 50 assistance dogs trained through See Differently’s OPK9 program since it was established in 2013.


The life-changing program provides highly trained assistance dogs to veterans living with PTSD, thanks to funding from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and charitable donations.