Mental Health

Taking a dip with the award-winning emotional support dogs

Watch: Veterans benefit from swimming with emotional support Newfoundland dogs.

An Army veteran who suffers from PTSD says he would not be here today without the help of a paramedic who runs emotional support swims with his incredible pet dogs.

Kevin Robinson, who did several tours of Northern Ireland and endured many traumatic experiences, says that open water swimming with the Newfoundland dogs has saved his life.

Paramedic Pete Lewin set up the charity which puts on open water swims for frontline emergency service workers, military veterans and anyone struggling with their mental health.

In recognition of his work, he has been shortlisted for an award at this year's Soldiering On awards and won the Hero Dog award at Crufts in 2022. 

Kevin said from his first swim with the dogs, it was "brilliant", and described how "you are relaxed, all the emotions that you have been trying to keep locked inside came out... I had a few tears when we did the silent swim.

"You came away feeling 'yeah'."

A quiet swim is where a dog gently pulls you back to shore, while you float alongside in silence.

Newfoundland emotional support dogs swimming veterans 210823 2 CREDIT BFBS
Veterans enjoy swimming and interacting with Pete's Newfoundland dogs.

Swims can last for hours at a time and it is an experience that works, explains Pete.

"People have said 'have I done any research?', have I got any research that proves the benefits of this.

"Well, I'm a bit of a simple man, so if somebody comes with a sad face and gets out upright and smiling, that's a winner for me."

Part of the enjoyment of swimming with the dogs is down to their impressive technique and ability to pull someone along through the water.

Pete says: "They don't do a doggy paddle, they do an actual doggy breaststroke, if you like," adding: "They're the only dog that swims like the polar bear."

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