A SURFING dog with a blue mohican is helping a former cop with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to reclaim her life.
Scooter, a rescue dog who started off life on the streets of Portugal, was trained to visit stroke patients and people receiving end-of-life care.
But with no space for him at the pound, staff were faced with putting him down.
But then Kirstie Coy-Martin, a Met Police officer of 24 years and struggling with PTSD after working on horrific child abuse cases, decided to adopt him.
The keen surfer, 46, learned that in America pets are trained as surf therapy dogs to support war veterans, and she decided to train up Scooter.
She said: ‘We could surf together. That’s where I feel the safest and forget about everything, when I’m on the water.’
Kirstie, who lives near Bracklesham Bay, in West Sussex, first trained Scooter by getting him used to the board with treats and cuddles, progressing from dog paddling pools to shallow water.
When she first took Scooter out six weeks ago on a calm dry day, Scooter — whose blue mohawk is a tribute to a surfing dog in America, called Derby — was eager to go.
Kirstie said: ‘He’s so cool — everywhere he goes he turns heads. It’s quite a big step to do that in the UK as we’re more conservative.
‘I’ve only had one negative comment — everyone else loves it.’
While he is not doing tricks and riding massive waves yet, she said he is still a ‘rookie’ but could definitely start playing with the ‘big dogs’.
She said: ‘We get stopped quite a lot for photos. That’s what he’s there for, to make people smile.’
Kirstie has now entered Scooter into his first competition — the Global Dog Surfathon Dog Surfing Competition, based in south California, where she said surfing dogs are treated like superstars and even get their own sponsorship deals.
Scooter is the only dog in Europe to take part and is currently at third place in the people’s awards.
The video she entered of him surfing is a ‘symbolic’ one — showing the first time Scooter ever rode a board right onto the beach.
Scooter is also Kirstie’s companion service dog, meaning he will be trained to wake her up when she suffers from nightmares or to keep people away when she is in a crowded place.
She said: ‘When I’m with him, everyone’s attention is on him and it gives me something to focus on. I’m able to do more.’
Kirstie hopes to one day set up or work with a charity so other emergency workers can surf with Scooter or other pets trained in surfing.
She said: ‘Doing a third of my 24 years on the child abuse investigation team came back to bite me in the end.
‘I hid it and suppressed it. I didn’t know non-military people could get PTSD. It’s not something that’s understood.
‘Being in the water is my happy and safe space and it’s scientifically proven that surf therapy can help people with PTSD and other mental health issues.
‘If people in those emergency service positions can go on these courses before they have a breakdown like I did, surf therapy could save thousands in taxpayer money and sick days and people leaving the emergency services.’
For now, Scooter will continue helping Kirstie heal by keeping her company out on her surfboard.
She said: ‘He is really special and to think he could have been put to sleep.’