A Partnership in Peace for Dee and Bo

Dee Handyside
Dee Handyside

Tranquil Tamborine Mountain is a long way from the battles that took place in Northern Ireland during the late 1960s to the 1990s.

Sadly, for Dee Handyside the impact of the ten years she spent serving in the Royal Military Police, with three tours in Northern Ireland, remain all too raw.

In 2003 Dee moved to Australia with husband Aidan and was diagnosed with PTSD.

“For 16 years we had to check under the car before we got in it, even if we were on leave,” Dee revealed. 

“Close the curtains before we turned on the lights, because of snipers; check the spy hole in the door before we opened it.”

“It has been a marked experience in my life. We’ve had two colleagues who were killed.”

“PTSD is my enemy now and I’m never going to defeat it.”

Fortunately, today Dee doesn’t have to fight the battle alone, she has a new weapon by her side – Bo, a chocolate labrador.

Bo came into her life in 2016 as a pet, shortly before Dee and Aidan moved to the mountain.

“I had my third breakdown and ended up in a PTSD psych ward for military veterans. They suggested I try with a service dog,” she recalled. So, Bo was conscripted. 

“She was a naughty bugger first off, but when the charity came around to assess her, they said she was okay. She’s still naughty at home, but when I put the harness on her she goes into working mode.”

Bo warns Dee by knocking on her leg when she is going into a dissociative state and doesn’t know where she is.

Dee laughed saying it’s almost like Bo is telling her off, but it’s enough to make her step away from what she’s doing and take a break.

When things get really bad, Bo will jump on Dee who will lie down, and Bo will lie on top of her chest using deep pressure therapy. 

“She will not get off me until she knows I’m ready,” she said.

It took two years to train Bo as an accredited service/assistance dog and the two of them are now able to enjoy life together.

Dee’s battles didn’t end with her PTSD though. In 2018 she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Her journey through the disease led her and her friend, Briohne Sykes, who sadly passed away in 2018, to create the Silk Rags Project – an educational experience and musical that helps friends and family navigate cancer in a sensitive way.

With her focus on the project and Bo keeping watch on her, Dee is optimistic for the future.