Since our inception in 2015, Misha’s Mates has been focused on supporting, and improving the quality of life for, veterans and first responders, who have sacrificed their mental or physical health in service of our country.
At the heart of our operation is black Labrador, Misha— professed as the ‘real hero’—who founder, Craig adopted and trained as a qualified assistance dog in 2014.
After leaving the Army and recognising the physical and mental impact of his time in service, it was suggested to Craig that he look in to getting an assistance dog. After a few weeks of searching Craig met Misha, and after conducting Misha’s initial temperament testing Craig knew she would be the perfect dog for him.
It soon became evident that to apply for and receive an assistance dog through one of the few Australian companies working with veterans would have been both a lengthy and extraordinarily expensive process.
Craig began researching alternatives and finally found someone who was willing to provide a training vest and public access testing. However, there was little training advice provided and Craig was left scrambling for advice from community training groups and online forums as he was turned away continually by “industry professionals”, many of whom proceeded to tell him it was impossible to train an assistance dog yourself. This only spurred Craig’s determination and one year later Misha was assessed and passed with flying colours. She has since taken up residence alongside Craig as both his loved and loving companion and as a qualified assistance dog.
Craig was soon approached by other veterans asking for his support to train their own assistance dogs. Before long, Misha found herself in the company of ‘mates’ and Misha’s Mates was formed. These days you will find our “Mates” all over Tasmania in our red jackets providing assistance and support to those with physical disabilities and also to those with the far more common injuries sustained by our soldiers and first responders, Minor Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Over time, Misha’s Mates has gained the support of some amazing volunteers, which has allowed the organisation to keep growing, while Craig pursued his passion of working in the outdoors by training as a qualified Outdoor Recreation Facilitator.
Resultingly, Misha’s Mates now offers Adventure Therapy programs to its clients. These programs have been carefully designed by Misha’s Mates in collaboration with medical professionals, with the aim of facilitating positive conversations about transition and mental health in an environment where participants are challenged and supported by their peers.
Activities range in scope from social afternoon rock climbing sessions to multi-day hikes with a therapeutic focus, all while appreciating Tasmania’s beautiful wilderness.