A Dapto therapy dog is a finalist in a national competition for helping her owner cope with debilitating mental health issues and bringing comfort to others at community festivals.
Brad Hanns couldn't be happier his best friend and saving grace Shadow, a border collie-cross, is a finalist for the OZ Top Dog People's Choice award.
Brad said without the lovable pooch by his side, his life would have turned a dark corner from the trauma suffered throughout his life.
"I'm lucky to be alive," Brad said.
"Dogs are very important ... they know what's going on and seem to heal you."
Without Shadow (or his previous therapy dog Rastus), Brad said he wouldn't have been able to step outside his home let alone help organise Dogs Day Out festivals across the state.
The next one to be held at MacCabe Park in Wollongong on Sunday September 3.
"I saw the organisation Dogs in the Park, and I wanted to do something with them with Shadow and it's led to all this now, it's just been so positive," he said of the family-friendly events.
"People have seen a different side of me, you know, I'm more outgoing, I've been able to overcome the depression anxiety and PTSD."
I've been able to get off all the other heavy medications that I was on and I think it's because of going to these events [with Shadow] and that's just made me so much happier.- Brad Hanns
There have been a lot of dark times for Brad, who has lost his partner to suicide, watched his dad lose a battle with dementia and been involved in a horrific car accident.
He was also involved in two separate workplace incidents, one of which resulted in a brain haemorrhage from a prank gone wrong, which meant Brad had to learn to walk and talk again.
Multiple traumas have left him mentally and physically scarred with a lifetime of physical and emotional pain, but Shadow is the reason he can keep going.
"I've got what's called a spinal stimulator to stop the pain, but I've been able to get off all the other heavy medications that I was on and I think it's because of going to these events and that's just made me so much happier," Brad said.
When the duo aren't dressed up for Dogs In The Park events, you can find them inspiring others with motivational talks.
The public can vote for Shadow in the Oz Top Dog award, with the winner announced on August 25. More details are at www.people2people.com.au.
For more details about the Dogs Day Out festivals, visit: https://www.facebook.com/DogsintheparknswFestival.
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