Home » Local charity Paws for Hope and Understanding assists veterans

Local charity Paws for Hope and Understanding assists veterans

Guy Hazlewood    April 24, 2024    3 min read   

Former Australian Army serviceman, Bob Richards, is the CEO of Paws for Hope and Understanding based out of Pallara, which is a charity dedicated to providing service dogs for individuals grappling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other challenges.

Paws for Hope
CEO Bob Richards and secretary Bill Marklew. Source: Paws for Hope and Understanding

Bob, who served in the Australian Army for 15 years, including a tour in South Vietnam from 1967 to 1968 as a Platoon Medic, earned gallantry medals for his bravery in action.

However, his service also left him grappling with the invisible wounds of war.

“Unfortunately, my service left me with PTSD,” Bob said.

“I was in a bad way mentally for a period of time and my daughter was looking for ways she could help me.”

Bob’s daughter, Hannah Richards, took it upon herself to seek training for a service dog to support her father.

She travelled to the United States in 2015 to learn to be a K9 task-trained service dog instructor, which was a caring and brave decision considering her own diagnosis of generalised epileptic seizures and secondary PTSD.

Paws for Hope
The Paws for Hope and Understanding office. Source: Guy Hazlewood

Hannah’s initiative eventually led to the establishment of Paws for Hope and Understanding, a charity that provides accredited service dogs for individuals facing various challenges, including physical injuries and psychological trauma.

“We start with the dogs at about 13 weeks, and they are purebred,” Bob said.

“We then train these dogs to perform specific tasks tailored to the needs of their handlers.”

These tasks range from providing emotional support to practical assistance, such as blocking individuals from approaching too closely or providing deep pressure therapy.

Reflecting on the organisation’s inception, Bob recalled the initial challenges they faced in getting started.

“Ten years ago, we started, and that was the hardest part because we had to get people trained up to train the dogs,” Bob said.

Hannah’s involvement with the Purple Heart Foundation in America further enriched their efforts, providing valuable insights into training service dogs for veterans and first responders.

Today, Paws for Hope continues to make a profound impact, honouring individuals’ medical and mental health needs and providing invaluable support through their trained service dogs.

“It’s pretty special what we’ve done here,” Bob said.

“If we can save one veteran with a dog, we’ve done a job.”

Paws for Hope
Seven handlers attended the Anzac Day 2023 service at I.S.A Memorial Park in Inala with their service dogs. Photo provided by Bill Marklew, 2023. 
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Guy Hazlewood