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Courageous Companions




MSAR Search and Rescue

MSAR has been working for the past 10 years in the research, development and implementation of service dogs in all capacities -autism, dementia, post traumatic stress disorder, seizure dogs, therapy, bipolar, depression (and forms of), disability and assistance. We have focused on the mental health related dogs for our study of over 371 dogs trained with over 200,000 hours of operational time – it has started with the Elite Therapy Dog program and its expansion to service dog status due to its dramatic results that we have documented. We have noticed with our working group of veterans and active combat soldiers who have received an MSAR dog to exhibit the following:

Increase in patience, impulse control, and emotional regulation & stability

Improved ability to display affect, decrease in emotional numbness – emotions less bottled up

Improved sleep

Significant decrease in suicidal thoughts

Decreased depression, increase in positive sense of purpose

Decrease in startle responses

Decrease in pain medications

Increased sense of belongingness/acceptance – less of the loner mentality

Increase in assertiveness skills without aggression but confident

Improved parenting skills and family dynamics

Less war stories and more in-the-moment thinking – less flashbacks

Lowered stress levels, increased sense of calm

MSAR has initiated a program to support persons suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This program was introduced to Canadian Forces during a three day workshop September 28 – October 1, to the IPSC) Integrated Personnel Support Centre, Winnipeg – 17 Wing Squadron.

MSAR is currently working with 35 combat soldiers suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) due to combat missions overseas.

We have a waiting list of 42 soldiers with many more to come since combat operations in Afghanistan are coming to a conclusion – we estimate we will need 75 Elite Service Dogs by the fall of 2012.

MSAR is working with the Canadian Forces Integrated Personnel Support Centre (IPSC) in Winnipeg and Brandon to match soldiers with dogs for Elite Dog Service.

MSAR has trained over 325 service dogs in the fields of therapeutic, autistic, disability, detection, psychiatric and assistance.

MSAR wrote the standard for the Elite Service Dog Program working with Animal Services & Integrated Support Teams (ASIST/ASSISTER).

MSAR’s Certified Master Dog Trainer program requires a high degree of excellence before Certification is obtained. The current graduation rate of only 5% attests to the quality of our trainers.

MSAR started the program working with PTSD soldiers after one of its members also a former Canadian Forces member stepped forward and asked for assistance from the Association.


MSAR, working in partnership with soldiers suffering with PTSD, is training PTSD Elite Service Dogs.

All dogs with be acquired from shelters as our motto is “Rescuing One Soul to Save Another”. The dogs are specifically chosen for their sociability and intelligence which decreases training time and provides maximum emotional support for the soldier working with the dog.

The soldiers working with MSAR’s Certified Master Dog Trainers will train the dog for a period of one to one and a half years (depending on soldiers needs and complexity of training required). During this period of training the soldier will acquire new skills and receive immediate and continuous physical and emotional benefits from their success in teaching the dog the necessary tasks to support the needs of the soldier and by building a solid bond with their service dog throughout the process.

MSAR has a unique ‘Loaner Dog’ support service. During the training and assessment phase if the soldier requires the immediate assistance of an Elite Psychiatric Service Dog, MSAR will loan the soldier a fully trained and experienced MSAR Elite Psychiatric Service dog – such as Stinky, Baxter, Maggie (not Maggie Mayhem) or Titan. MSAR has documented evidence of the value of this in the lives of our soldiers that participate in the program.

The program uses a complete team effort by integrating Canadian Forces support personnel (IPSC), a support group of soldiers suffering with PTSD and a comprehensive journal to track the daily progress of the soldier and Elite Service Dog during training. This journal has proved to be an invaluable tool in attesting to the success of the program.

Upon completion of the training the soldier may:

Take the Certification Test and have an Elite Psychiatric Service Dog
Defer taking the Certification Test and keep the dog as a really good family pet
Decide to continue as a trainer and assist fellow soldiers by training other dogs

Why a Service Dog:

Our Armed Forces have provided incalculable sacrifices for our country. MSAR is honored to provide our support, which acknowledges the soldiers’ sacrifice and reciprocates our support for our soldiers by providing trained service dogs. A Service Dog provides physical and/or emotional support to a soldier who may be suffering from PTSD or other more visible injuries and allows them to reintegrate into their daily activities with dignity.

Emotion drives the behavior of all social mammals, humans included. Social bonding is one of the pillars of survival. With the exception of childbirth, scientific studies show interaction with animals to be one of the most efficient and long-lasting methods of producing the hormone oxytocin which has a powerful physical and emotional effect on the participants. Physically, oxytocin can lower blood pressure, reduce inflammatory symptoms which are associated with diseases like arthritis and atherosclerosis, reduce anxiety and fear responses, reduce hyper-arousal which can lead to aggressive behavior, reduce physical pain and sleep disruptions. Emotionally, oxytocin has been shown to reduce anxiety symptoms, reduce the frequency of nightmares and interpersonal difficulties and social isolation.

Animals in general and dogs in particular are uniquely positioned to provide the safest and most effective way to access the benefits of oxytocin as currently there is no safe pharmaceutical option to access the benefits of this hormone. Our relationship with dogs extends thousands of years of mutual benefit, and the simple action of stroking or touching a pet releases oxytocin which enhances our lives in so many ways. Without our association with dogs we might not have been able to achieve the levels of civilization so quickly. In fact, the parts of dog’s brain that govern social responses more closely resembles a human’s than a chimpanzee’s brain.

Dogs have long provided a loyal and useful service to humans and this program will allow them to continue to enhance our lives and give our returning soldiers a ‘passport to life’


This standard was prepared by a committee composed of members of Animal Services & Integrated Support Teams (ASIST/ASSISTER, Ottawa) and (MSAR Search & Rescue, Winnipeg) and approved by their Boards of Directors. Following an extensive public review by Canadian stakeholders, our standards will be introduced to the International Standards Organization (ISO) for adoption by the international community working with service dogs.

It is drafted in accordance with the rules of the International Organization for Standardization and the International Electro technical Commission, ISO/IEC Directives, Part 2, Rules for the structure and drafting of International Standards.

This standard was prepared in the expectation it will be used for certification according to the principles in ISO/IEC 17024, Conformity assessment – General requirements for bodies operating certification of persons (For more information on the suite of international standards providing best practices, see incalculable://www.iso.org/iso/conformity_assessment).

Soldiers Journal: These are actual written journal extracts forwarded to MSAR by soldiers who are in the program or have received an MSAR Elite Service Dog.

I am stable now and have an MSAR dog – I mean an MSAR life saver – this dog – I had one when I was young and forgot how great they are – this dog has saved my life. I can work but it is the down time that scares the crap out of me and having this dog has brought balance and actually brought my family back together.“

I asked MSAR why are you guys doing this – they said “You went to fight for us over there we will fight for you here.”

In the period I was training I needed immediate help so MSAR gave me Stinky – you gotta see this dog – it is like a rock you feel so safe with her hanging out with you. I went fishing and camping and talked to that dog for three days – three freaking days – I never talked to mom for three freaking days straight. After that weekend I decided life was worth living and got back on track.”

I want to thank MSAR they have definitely saved my life – I know because I was a little spot in the world and had the gun loaded ready to blow my freaking brains all over the wall but Stinky came over and put her head my lap as I held the gun to my head – and I could not do it – so I called my support person and he got one of the guys in the soldiers support group to come over and talk to me – it saved my life. The look that Stink y gave me I will never forget it – I felt needed, like someone gave a crap. I never thought anybody cared until I got help.”

I know that having this Elite Service dog has stopped me four times in the past six months from killing myself – it is that constant unwavering, non judgmental bond that I have with my dog that brought me back from the darkness and stop the demons from coming out at night.”


Featured Dog – Stinky Leonard (In Memory)

Dog: Stinky

Breed: Rottweiler (Adopted from Rottie Rescue)

Cost: $40,000

Service Application: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Service Dog

No Bite Program

Decorations / Awards: Purina Animal Hall of Fame 2011 Service Dog of The Year

MSAR Outstanding Service Award

MSAR Life Saving Award (Multiple)

Sponsor: Winnipeg Foundation


Stinky’s History and Story

Nikki (her original name) was adopted from Rick at Rottie Rescue in Manitoba, Canada – Rick has been a tremendous source for MSAR to adopt well balanced, even tempered dogs for our programs and we encourage anyone looking for a Rottie to consider Rottie Rescue as a great option. Ever dog we have adopted from Rottie Rescue has turned out to be an award winning decorated service dog. Nikki was a curious puppy and one day she wanted to play with two skunks, which is never a good idea, so she got sprayed by one and then the other and then trying to get ride of the stench she rolled in horse and cow manure and then proceeded to try and get into the house. It took almost a month to get Nikki to smell properly so her named was changed to Stinky. Stinky was raised with Maxx Power and Stinky was slated to go into search and rescue (SAR) activity but her initial screening and test went bad, Stinky received the lowest score ever given to a dog for the initial SAR test. And since MSAR works in many different facets of dog training and programming Stinky was moved to the then Therapy side of programming. Stinky then was trained and worked to improve our Therapy Dog Program by working with shut-ins (Meals on Wheels), seniors, schools (No-Bite Program), autistic children, dementia, depression, self abuse and was crucial in raising our standards to the Elite level. Stinky then was put to training other dogs (as pups, or with behaviour issues) and her now famous work with military veterans from the Canadian Forces (for which she was inducted into the Purina Hall of Fame). Stinky was an instant hit with the PTSD program and she was used for seven of our most critical cases where she was credited for saving these veterans lives by giving them a reason to go on by providing constant support and the bridge to link back to society. The veterans loved to have a large breed dog, especially a Rottweiler it was a great feeling of security and companionship and in the cases (total of 7 throughout her career – six prior to the hall of fame and one just after) were there was a delay or it would take time to train a dog for them we placed Stinky to live with the veteran. Stinky would live with them day in day out for times of up to six months until the veterans dog was ready for placement. This placement (our loaner dog program) saved seven of Canada’s finest war veterans and helped them to move on to treatment and adjustment back into society. Many dogs have saved someones live but no other dog that we have heard of has saved seven lives and attributed to the program development to assist the other 28 vets currently in our program as of March 2012. Stinky worked until late 2011 when at the age of 11 she became ill and was diagnosed with cushions disease, Stinky was taken out of service and lived the remainder of her live until Feb 27, 2012 in absolute luxury and constant care. Stinky was MSAR’s most decorated and most loved dog and her legacy is the thousands of people that have benefited from her work and the many more in the future that will use MSAR’s training programs. When Stinky’s passing was announced nationally MSAR was overwhelmed with the thousands of condolences we received from all over the world but especially from current Canadian Forces members serving in Afghanistan.

Stinky will never be replaced but MSAR is currently training a dog to assume her duties in the PTSD and No-Bite Program – and that dog is “Mud Pie McGee” – a beautiful Rottweiler (adopted from Rick at Rottie Rescue) that will be ready for duty in the fall of 2012.


MSAR Official Press Release for “Stinky”


PRESS RELEASE – February 27, 2012




With heavy heart MSAR announces the passing of it's most famous, most decorated and most loved Elite Service dog “Stinky”. At age 11 she passed away surrounded by people who loved her - her partner George Leonard is saddened and proud of her legacy:
  1. Credited for saving a total of 7 Canadian forces combat veterans suffering with PTSD for which she was inducted into the Purina animal hall of fame in 2011.
  2. The lead dog for MSAR's PTSD program of which there are now 35 Canadian veterans receiving free service dogs in this national program.
  3. Teaching thousands of northern remote first nation and city youth how to safely interact with dogs in the community through the Winnipeg Foundation sponsored No bite program
  4. The techniques and training perfected on Stinky gave MSAR the ability to donate over 325 service dogs for free to the public worth in excess of 6.5 million dollars.
QuotesI am overwhelmed by the support that I have received from the Canadian forces veterans and their kind words.” 
George Leonard – Handler / Partner For a dog to save one life is amazing but for a dog to save seven - I am beyond proud”
George Leonard – Handler / Partner She broke the stereo type of the Rottweiler and that you can't get quality dogs from a rescue shelter”
George Leonard – Handler / Partner She will be greatly missed but her legacy will reach many more thousands of people”
George Leonard – Handler / Partner We know of no other dog that has made such a huge contribution to the Service dog training and development than Stinky and for that we are blessed to have had her”
MSAR K-9 Trainers

I owe my life to stinky and I too morn with George for his great loss”

Jeff Canadian forces veteran


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