Island man fundraises for service dog

Kevin Ramsey and Mel the service dog with some of the many bottles and cans that have been donated to Mel’s succession plan. The refundable bottles and cans are being collected to defray the costs of training a new service dog to replace the aging Mel when the time comes.

LITTLE CURRENT – Kevin Ramsey and his service dog Mel are an inseparable pair. Patrons of the LCBO store in Little Current where Mr. Ramsey worked as a manager are likely familiar with Mel, whose low-key friendly presence added a homey touch to the rows of bottles and cans. But Mel is getting on in years and Mr. Ramsey has had to confront the possible loss of his constant companion in the next couple of years.

The service dog training centre he is looking at has a two-year waiting list and a price tag of $3,500 to secure Mel’s successor. Mel was originally a pound dog, his mother was a black lab and his father unknown (Mel’s spotted coat hints Dalmatian, but there is no other evidence to establish his paternity).

“I was lucky enough to have a neighbour who trained service dogs,” explained Mr. Ramsey. 

Mel, while still healthy and hearty, is approaching his expected lifespan—with perhaps as little as two years remaining in his hourglass.

But, with a resurgent debilitation making a return to work difficult, the economic hit of preparing for Mel’s successor is challenging. Mel’s duty is critical to his master’s ability to cope with his posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

PTSD is defined as a psychiatric disorder and can occur in individuals who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, or rape or who have been threatened with death, sexual violence or serious injury. Mr. Ramsey’s issues originally stem from what he describes as a “terrible childhood.” The debilitating effects have continued into later adulthood, bringing with them tremendous debilitating effects and employment challenges.

“I have used up all of my sick days and vacation,” said Mr. Ramsey, “and now I am looking at going on long-term disability. Like most people these days I am living paycheque to paycheque, so my income is going to drop to 55 percent of what it was.”

That’s where bottles and cans re-enter the picture.

Mr. Ramsey looked around at the LCBO shelves and realized there was potential in the empties. He quickly formulated a plan. With an ad posted in The Expositor, a few posters taped up in the usual places, a call went out for empty bottles and cans to be dropped off near his apartment at 10 Cherry Lane in Little Current. The response since has been tremendous.

“I couldn’t believe how supportive people have been,” he said, as he loaded several large bags of cans into the back of a truck. “A fellow just came by and dropped these off.”

Mr. Ramsey said he can take any type of bottles or cans that come with a returnable deposit, and the way things are piling up, Mel’s succession may soon be secure.

“I am really grateful for the support and understanding that people have shown for me and Mel,” he said.