Brothers cycle across Australia for assistance dogs

Brothers Brian and Ian Schumacher recently completed a charity cycle across Australia in support of ACT-based organisation Integra Service Dogs Australia. Integra works with veterans and first-responders experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and is a contracted provider for the DVA Psychiatric Assistance Dog Program.

Brian and Ian left Fremantle on 1 April to begin their 4,697-kilometre cycling journey. The pair rode an average of 110 kilometres a day for 44 days before reaching their final destination, Sydney. They raised more than $130,000 from public donations and corporate support.

En route to Sydney, the brothers arrived in Canberra on Tuesday 11 May, where they met with Deputy Secretary Vicki Rundle to discuss how the DVA Psychiatric Assistance Dogs program is supporting veterans in need, and with the Governor-General, His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Ret’d) and Mrs Linda Hurley who are joint patrons of Integra.

Brian and Ian belong to a family with several current Australian Defence Force members and first-responders, and share a passion for mental health initiatives.

Their journey was predominately unsupported and they logged their progress on social media with a digital tracker each day.

‘We’re convinced that [assistance dogs] save lives and that it’s an important additional therapy for veterans,’ said Brian Schumacher when he arrived in Canberra.

‘The Program began in September 2019, and there are already strong indications it is having a profound impact on the day-to-day lives of veterans,’ said DVA Deputy Secretary Vicki Rundle PSM.

‘Veterans have reported feeling calmer and to be able to do things that they would not have done prior to having a psychiatric assistance dog, such as going out on their own, visiting the coffee shop and catching up with friends.

‘The dogs are trained to the individual needs of their veteran handler and to perform specific tasks to help with recovery and general wellbeing.’

DVA is now working with four providers, and 33 psychiatric assistance dogs have passed their intensive training program and have been placed with veterans. More than 120 dogs are in training across Australia.

After the veteran receives their dog, its training continues during their time together and within their own environment.

The Program is available to eligible veterans who have a diagnosis of PTSD and forms part of their PTSD management plan, along with financial assistance from DVA for the upkeep of the dog.

A video of their arrival in Canberra is available on the DVA Facebook page and more information about assistance dogs is available on the DVA website.

Four people in cycling gear with Integra-branded cycle wear

From left: Brian Schumacher; the Governor-General, His Excellency David Hurley AC DSC; Mrs Linda Hurley; Ian Schumacher.

Smiling woman talking to cyclist with Lake in background

DVA Deputy Secretary Vicki Rundle PSM talking with Brian Schumacher

A labrador on a leash with an Integra-branded coat

One of Integra’s assistance dogs.