A MAN'S best friend is said to be his dog and for one Kelty serviceman, his faithful pet proved vital as he battled through mental health difficulties.

Royal Marines Commando Mick Cairns, 41, who is set to leave the services later this year, was helped through a diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder by his trusty Sprocker Sam.

He now plans to help other ex servicemen after setting up his own charity, A Veteran's Best Friend (AVBF).

He hopes his newly formed organisation will provide support for armed forces veterans across Scotland and train rescue dogs to be companion or assistance dogs before they are paired with people who suffer from PTSD or mental health problems.

"The reason I am setting it up is I am in the position that I am getting medically discharged from the Marines with PTSD and I have a personality disorder," he explained.

"I didn't find out until October but I had been signed off before that. I had a breakdown in February last year and I couldn't take it anymore. I had had enough and I went to the doctors after a bit of a push from the padre and my wife and got signed off with anxiety and depression.

"When I came back in, the reaction from my dog Sam was something I had never seen before. He could tell there was something not quite right and that got me thinking about dogs and what they can do for people's mental health. He helped me through it."

After volunteering for a charity, Bravehound, while recovering, dad of five Mick trained as a PTSD dog trainer with Sam and is keen to share his knowledge and train others.

He is currently looking for premises for the charity where a drop in facility can be held and, earlier this month, completed a 30 mile march in under eight hours to kickstart fundraising.

"Funding is a problem because of covid," he added. "I am trying to get funding at the moment but a lot of funders are looking for experience or they are not willing to fund new charities.

"It will be a full time commitment because I want it is a dog assistance charity and a drop in centre. I don't want to rush it, I want to get it right.

"As well as PTSD and mental health issues, I believe the transition going from military life to civilian life can be very stressful when they have been used to the structure for so long.

"It isn't just about the dogs, I have got therapists waiting to come in. I also want it to be a drop in centre where guys can feel safe and have a bit of banter and be around other veterans."

Anyone wanting further information – or to help with fundraising or possible premises for the charity – can visit the A Veteran's Best Friend Facebook page.