The value of an animal

Posted by Jim, Volunteer Mentor @jimhd, Sep 16, 2017

I’ve had dogs most of my life, except in college. I’ve always enjoyed them as pets, and my wife has usually had a cat.
My life went upside down in 2005. I was falling into a really deep depression and made multiple suicide attempts. I kept thinking I’d hit bottom, but then I’d go down deeper and darker. I admitted myself to a small facility for survivors of suicide attempts, and stayed for 6 weeks, until I felt like I’d be safe again. I wasn’t really, but life went on. I retired and began therapy, and after a couple of years I talked with my therapist about training my dog to be a service dog. I had an Aussie/Border Collie mix, who was a wonderful dog, and after working with him for over a year, he became my service animal.
Barnabas went everywhere with me, and was of great service to me with depression, PTSD and suicidal thoughts. Everybody loved him. But last year at Valentine’s, he had a stroke or some other brain event, a week after a checkup at the vet’s, where I was told he had years left in him (he was only 9). That was really hard, especially since I didn’t have a therapist right then, and couldn’t get one until a year later. That was an 18 month stretch without a therapist, and the last six were pretty dark. I was fortunate to find my next dog at our local humane shelter, a few weeks after Barnabas died. Sadie had just been brought in that day because the people had too many dogs, and decided to return her to the shelter. She was fearful and skittish, but I felt an immediate bond with her. We left her alone for a couple of days, so she could become comfortable in our home, with us, and with my wife’s little dog, Pete. After a year, she’s joined to me at the hip. If I go outside, she follows, and comes in when I do. We have ten acres, so she has lots of room to run, rodents to catch, cows and horses to herd – they either ignore her or run her off – but she always comes back to me and sits down near me and watches me work in the yard. If I’m kneeling, she sits right in front of me for some petting. She’s very attentive, obedient and therapeutic for me. When I’m extra depressed or feeling the anxiety level rising, she lies in my lap and the pressure of the weight of her body provides calming therapy on my torso, for as long as I need her.
One challenge of having a service dog is public ignorance. Everytime we go out, someone asks if they can pet her (No), or just pets her without asking. If they don’t pet her, they talk to her, which is pretty much the same as petting because they’re drawing her attention away from me. Cesar teaches don’t touch, don’t talk, don’t make eye contact.
An issue I’ve been dealing with is lack of understanding of the difference between service and therapy dogs. A service dog serves only its handler. A therapy dog is trained to serve others, such as in hospitals, to provide calming therapy for people. I was asked to have Sadie certified as a therapy dog, but I couldn’t agree to it because of the differing purposes of the service and therapy animals. For 5 years, I was a Hospice volunteer, visiting patients for an hour a week, in their homes, in the hospital, in care homes – wherever they were. A few had house pets, so I left my dog in the car during the visit (always in safe, shaded places, with water). Every other patient loved having my dog come with me to visit them. I made an exception to the no pet rule with hospice patients because it meant so much to them. I had to resign a few months ago because they wrote a set of guidelines that specifies only certified therapy dogs could go with volunteers. I hated to give up that volunteer job. I think it helped me get out and interact with others, and it gave me a chance to give out to those who have a real need.

How has a pet or animal helped you? Share your story with us.

Of course, Sadie’s more than a pet, though she is that, too, but she provides the companionship of a pet, the devotion and unconditional love. I’ll try to share pictures of Barnabas (brown and white) and Sadie (black and white). (Sorry I couldn’t change the orientation of the picture of Sadie.)

@amberpep

Well, this coming Saturday I will be picking up Kellar. I’m pretty well set up for him except to get the crate out of storage and wash it out. I have not said anymore to any of my family and they’ve not said anymore to me. I don’t much care anymore what they think ….. I’m sick and tired of living by other people’s standards …. reminds me too much of my X who is a Narcassist. They don’t know when I get him and they won’t until I walk in their house with him. Of course I can’t take him to one of my daughter’s homes ….. her husband is 100%, dead set against, any dog, no matter whose, coming in their house. Dogs are meant to be outside animals, and that’s where his mother’s dog is, all the time. He’s a beautiful, white Eskimo dog, and he spends all his life outside, alongside a wooden doghouse, tied to a fairly long rope. I hate it. But, obviously it’s none of my business. They had a farm for years and years and all animals were outside animals …… sad.
Once before I left my now-X, I spent a week at a hotel with a kitchen, just to be alone, read, think, and be alone. I’ve been thinking about that again, but this time for a longer period of time, and maybe to a cabin somewhere in W.Va. I’d take Kellar with me and food for the week. Between this garbage my family gave me about getting a dog, my own emotional struggles right now, and just still this move, I’d like to run away …. no further contact.
abby

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Hi Jim …… I have not gone to a monestery yet, but there is one only 1 hr. from me, who have small, simple rooms for people to rent for 3 days. They all eat together with the Monks, in silence ….. it’s a total time of self-reflection and getting our perspective back where it belongs …. with God.
abby

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It sure is Teresa …. and it will continue. As long as I am able and capable of handling my own affairs, I WILL. At 73, it’s about time!
abby

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This is my English Bulldog. His name is Weezer. He is my security blanket!

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@georgette12

This is my English Bulldog. His name is Weezer. He is my security blanket!

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@georgette12 ……..what a handsome dog. I know what you mean by a security blanket. I have always had a dog, but after the last one passed, I vowed I would never get another one. Maybe I should rethink this.

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@georgette12

This is my English Bulldog. His name is Weezer. He is my security blanket!

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Weezer is my 5th ENGLISH BULLDOG. They are soft and mushy and think they are lap dogs. People who don’t know the breed are initially put off because of their scowling face and stocky body. They are wonderful pets for those of us who want someone to love us unconditionally and slurp us ferociously! If anybody likes research check this unique breed on the web.

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@georgette12

This is my English Bulldog. His name is Weezer. He is my security blanket!

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I love dogs and animals. I would have one but it not accepted in my building. Weezer is beautiful!!!

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Hi friends …. well, for right now, there will be no doggie for abby. The lady who is fostering him has been very generous in keeping me updated on how he’s been doing all along …. I really have appreciated that. He was very calm and snuggly in the beginning. They had him neutered and he kept pulling the stitches out, so they had to use an Elizabethan Collar. Then he started to chew their shoes up …. well, that part is easily solved by keeping them in the closet, then she told me he had gotten a bit rowdy, and had begun to jump up at her. He weighs 30 lbs. – my Molly weighed 12. He is apparently still jumping up at her …. something I know can be changed, but I’m not sure I’m the person to tackle it. My right knee is weakened after the 2 TKR surgeries and until I can get to the Wellness Center to strengthen those muscles and ligaments again, I could topple over if he should jump up at me. So, in thinking about it and giving it some time to “percolate”, and doing some reading from Victoria Stillwell’s book, I decided I shouldn’t take the chance. So, I called her and explained all this to her and she couldn’t have been more understanding. I’m at peace with this decision. I think I’ll wait til a Cavalier or Havanese comes along …. I can handle them.
abby

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Abby So sorry things didn’t work out. Maybe because your Cavalier or Havanese will manifest in the near future for you. I hope so! God works in mysterious ways. 🙂 Have a great day.

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That’s how I feel too Lorraine. I’ll wait for one of the others to show up.
abby

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@georgette12

This is my English Bulldog. His name is Weezer. He is my security blanket!

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@georgette12

What a sweet looking dog! Great picture, thanks for sharing.

Teresa

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Hi Georgette …. I love those little French bulldogs … they look just like yours but smaller. I always enjoy watching them bounce around the ring during the Dog Shows … they move pretty fast for a little guy.
abby

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@amberpep

Hi Georgette …. I love those little French bulldogs … they look just like yours but smaller. I always enjoy watching them bounce around the ring during the Dog Shows … they move pretty fast for a little guy.
abby

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@amberpep

I’m sorry for your disappointing setback. I’m confident that you won’t be waiting long for your dog to present itself. Better to wait for the right one than to be hasty and have the wrong one.

Jim

Jim

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