Soldier cycling to raise awareness

Sgt. Rob Nederlof bikes across the prairies raising awareness of support dogs for veterans, first responders and their families

August 23, 2023, 10:13 am
by Ashley Bochek

Sgt. Rob Nederlof passed through Moosomin last week on his ride to riase awareness and funds for PTSD service dogs.

Sgt. Rob Nederlof passed through the area last week as he was biking from Saskatoon to Kenora to raise awareness and money for support dogs to help veterans, first responders, and families suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

“PTSD support dogs through the Wounded Warriors program is for people who have PTSD and need a support animal to help them for their day to day lives,” Rob said.

Support dogs really make a difference for people suffering from PTSD.
“I met a guy last year who finally got a support dog. He had the dog for six weeks before I met him and up until that point he had a lot of issues getting out of the house and going grocery shopping or any day-to-day living. So seeing him six weeks later in Shilo doing a golf tournament with his support dog was huge to see.

“That is why it is important for support animals first of all, and dogs are just one of those things you can have in the house with you at all times.
“Through the military I have met a lot of people with PTSD, I am one of them. For the people who don’t have an outlet to help their emotions to stay in check, the support dogs are there all the time. It is a working dog so it can sense when the person is going to be agitated and it then can calm them down and get them out of that situation of anxiety.” Rob said.
Support dogs are expensive and can take a long time before those experiencing PTSD can qualify to get one.

“The dogs are expensive and you have to qualify to get one. Once you qualify to get a support dog you have to find the right dog for you. You can’t just have any dog, you have to meet them first and get the right one fit for you. It is a long process that can take up to four years to train the dog before you can get one.”

The dogs are known as working dogs. They are trained and used for many different services and programs.

“The dogs are trained over two years and they start out with a group of dogs and they get sorted into which dog fits best with PTSD or other services. The dogs are always going to another service dog program wherever they are best suited. The dogs are working dogs and will be going somewhere to provide some service. There are service dogs for autism, diabetes to sense when blood sugars are too high or too low, standard emotional support dog, but there is clinical emotional support animals and there is your standard emotional support animals.” Rob’s wife Marina said.

Rob started biking from Saskatoon with plans to end in Kenora.

“I started biking from Saskatoon on Friday, August 11, and I should be in Kenora by Saturday this week. It is about nine days and for the last three years we have always tried to keep it around the same time frame. In Shilo there is going to be some celebration and I am hoping to have a few guys bike up the road with me.”

The support is huge and a support dog can save a life of those who are suffering from PTSD.

“All the support we get means a lot. It means we can help somebody who needs a support dog whether it be military or first responders. If we can save a life that way then I am happy about it. It means a lot to me because a lot of my friends are suffering and without the outlets they have and they don’t realize they’re suffering then hopefully and eventually they can get a support dog.

“The suicide rates are too high with severe PTSD suffers and for every dog we can raise money for it is literally a life saved.”
The trip is to raise awareness for the Wounded Warriors programs and the support those programs can provide for first responders, RCMP, veterans, and volunteers.

“We are trying to get the word out for military and first responders. Wounded Warriors is around, but a lot of people don’t know what programs they have. The more I do this, the more it gets spread, the more programs Wounded Warriors can provide to help. It is for volunteer firefighters, for any first responder, EMTs, the RCMP. It isn’t just for the military. Since the prairies are such a small population and small representation of first responders and EMTs, we still have a large need for PTSD programs here. Just think about the crash in Carberry. We have friends and neighbors that are showing effects of PTSD already. It is for them as well. We have to get the word out,” Rob said.

The goal is to raise $10,000 to help those in need of a support dog.
“Our end goal is getting the word around about Wounded Warriors and to raise money for the dogs to be trained for someone who needs it. Our goal is to raise $10,000 this year and we have a donor who said he will match the full donation up to $50,000. We have a donor who is willing to do that. We end up usually surpassing $10,000 but donations have been slower this year. We just passed $4,000. We are hoping to raise $10,000 then matched is $20,000 which is one dog and one life.”

Local legions have provided dinners and support to Rob on his journey.
“The legions are a big supporter of ours this year so in Elkhorn they are having a fundraising dinner for us, we have a dinner in Carberry Tuesday night and the legion in Portage is putting on a BBQ the following night and they have done some fundraising so we are really excited about that.”
Because Rob is a member of the military, this trip raising awareness and money means a lot to him.

“It is important to me for my friends and my fellow first responders, but it means a lot to me for them to keep going on with their lives.

“If they are suffering and need help, then it is out there, and they need to know that, which is why I am biking. It means a lot to me with what I have been through and the fact I can help out another way is just something I need to do.”