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Islanders going the distance to support service dogs

BC and Alberta Guide Dogs’ third annual Woof-A-Thon Virtual Challenge goes Sunday
Military veteran Yance Sheehan and his service dog Ryder. (Courtesy BC and Alberta Guide Dogs)

The inspiration from one military veteran’s service dog has led to a team of Islanders looking to give back to others in need.

A group from Victoria and Comox is aiming to raise as much as $15,000 in support of BC and Alberta Guide Dogs’ third annual Woof-A-Thon Virtual Challenge. Dubbed ‘Team Woofathon Warriors’ they’ve set a goal to virtually row, bike, run or walk from CFB Naden in Victoria to CFB Edmonton on June 26 – some 1,263 kilometres.

“I want to give back and share so others can benefit. I can’t tell you how much this has meant to me,” said team member Yance Sheehan, in a release.

A military veteran, Sheehan’s mental and physical health declined due to an operational stress injury (OSI) after he left active service. With his life spiralling, he gained weight and was finding it increasingly difficult due to his medication to get out and enjoy the things he once took for granted.

Sheehan reached out for help and contacted BC and Alberta Guide Dogs’ Vancouver Island Compassion Dogs (VICD) program. After 14 months of training, he was given Ryder, a service dog to help with his OSI.

“Ryder has been a life saver for me … He’s given me my life back,” Sheehan said. “I was at a point where I couldn’t get on the ground and play with Ryder and get back up. That’s where I was physically. But I owed it to him and myself to lose weight and get back on track.”

With help from IRP Health, which focuses on veteran and first responder rehabilitation services, Sheehan has lost 170 pounds over the past few years and said he’s now feeling great.

Now, he wants to give back and help others.

Community members can join Team Woofathon Warriors at two locations on Sunday, June 26, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Team members will be at IRP Health at 107-2787 Jacklin Rd. in Langford and IRP Health in Comox, 101-1797 Comox Ave.

To learn more or contribute to the fundraiser, go to

ALSO READ: Future working dogs check in with namesake Dr. Bonnie Henry in Victoria


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