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.)

@aster75

Hello lilypaws I am very sorry for your loss ofLily. You did the most caring thing you could do in finding her a new loving home but your sadness must be deep. My hats off to you and I wish you healing and health

Jump to this post

@aster75 Thank you. We also have no contact with our son's family.. He is bipolar 1 and his wife controls him and seems to know what's best for him. The sad thing we have not seen out granddaughter since she was 3 and she is now nine. They live in NY and both are professor's, except my son cannot teach because of his illness. Marlowe can skype with us when she's at her grandma in Chicago. She sends me pictures and in my birthday card Marlowe had made Us something. We have talk to our lawyer to see if he can do anything. If they lived in Iowa there was nothing we could do unless one of them dies. But he's contacting a lawyer in NY to see what there law is and all I want is to skype with her, talk to her over the telephone and be able to mail things to her. Now I have to send letters and gifts to the grandmother in Chicago and she forwards it to her. We would let Marlowe decide if she would want to visit us.
Thanks for caring.

REPLY
@lilypaws

@aster75 Thank you. We also have no contact with our son's family.. He is bipolar 1 and his wife controls him and seems to know what's best for him. The sad thing we have not seen out granddaughter since she was 3 and she is now nine. They live in NY and both are professor's, except my son cannot teach because of his illness. Marlowe can skype with us when she's at her grandma in Chicago. She sends me pictures and in my birthday card Marlowe had made Us something. We have talk to our lawyer to see if he can do anything. If they lived in Iowa there was nothing we could do unless one of them dies. But he's contacting a lawyer in NY to see what there law is and all I want is to skype with her, talk to her over the telephone and be able to mail things to her. Now I have to send letters and gifts to the grandmother in Chicago and she forwards it to her. We would let Marlowe decide if she would want to visit us.
Thanks for caring.

Jump to this post

@lilypaws I'm switching to a tablet as my vision is dimming. One more cataract to go. I switched devices I read this entire thread. In 2011 my last rescue dog died. Three months later I had a heart attack. seven years later I went to the county shelter and found my hearts desire Sheila was cringing in a corner of the kennel. Unknown to me she had been raised to eat chicken and rice hand fed and off a plate on the floor. Housebroken trained to sit on the back seat sit in a shopping cart. It took awhile to understand she didn't know what dog food was and three years later doesn't want a dog toy. She's Chi- schipperkee mix. Like most small dogs she doesn't know it. Apparently her first mom was Chinese as she went up to every elderly woman in a wheelchair and if even faintly appear to be Chinese tried to climb into her lap. Life was very exciting with her. Fortunately for me the animal rescue thrift shop had wonderful volunteers who helped me get her acclimated to me and vice versa. I was in CBT and she went with me. Very impressive that she sat in my lap quietly looking from whoever was speaking to the other She had been lost or stolen and not spade after two litters on the street she was dumped at the shelter. We were both emotional messes at the time and on a visit to my internist the doctor said she's a natural or was trained to be a emotional therapy dog and wrote a certificate for her. She sat in my lap while flying from CA to NC. Since here I've been recovering from a bad fall with a broken hip and elbow.
She scared someone away there and here as well. She sounds like a huge dog but doesn't bark very much. Legally we need to take a training class for her to get a service dog certification. She loves to be friendly and gets sad she drops her ears of someone avoids her. PTSD is easier with her. I'm not a joiner and need to have a reason to go out. Fearful of virtigo bending down was an issue. On line I found a set rake and shovel longhandled and less then $20. She walks me 2 or 3 times a day. I have her emotional therapy certification. I don't really miss my children grands and greats because not one has ever reached out to ask if I need anything. I'm at peace. I keep busy acting as my own lawyer defending myself in a divorce. Online I watch cooking videos to learn new dishes and foods. I'm a news junkie and busy solving the countries problems out loud. Watched al! lectures mysteries movies that I missed or want to see again. Ginger please direct me to where I was.

REPLY
@lolaemma

@lilypaws I'm switching to a tablet as my vision is dimming. One more cataract to go. I switched devices I read this entire thread. In 2011 my last rescue dog died. Three months later I had a heart attack. seven years later I went to the county shelter and found my hearts desire Sheila was cringing in a corner of the kennel. Unknown to me she had been raised to eat chicken and rice hand fed and off a plate on the floor. Housebroken trained to sit on the back seat sit in a shopping cart. It took awhile to understand she didn't know what dog food was and three years later doesn't want a dog toy. She's Chi- schipperkee mix. Like most small dogs she doesn't know it. Apparently her first mom was Chinese as she went up to every elderly woman in a wheelchair and if even faintly appear to be Chinese tried to climb into her lap. Life was very exciting with her. Fortunately for me the animal rescue thrift shop had wonderful volunteers who helped me get her acclimated to me and vice versa. I was in CBT and she went with me. Very impressive that she sat in my lap quietly looking from whoever was speaking to the other She had been lost or stolen and not spade after two litters on the street she was dumped at the shelter. We were both emotional messes at the time and on a visit to my internist the doctor said she's a natural or was trained to be a emotional therapy dog and wrote a certificate for her. She sat in my lap while flying from CA to NC. Since here I've been recovering from a bad fall with a broken hip and elbow.
She scared someone away there and here as well. She sounds like a huge dog but doesn't bark very much. Legally we need to take a training class for her to get a service dog certification. She loves to be friendly and gets sad she drops her ears of someone avoids her. PTSD is easier with her. I'm not a joiner and need to have a reason to go out. Fearful of virtigo bending down was an issue. On line I found a set rake and shovel longhandled and less then $20. She walks me 2 or 3 times a day. I have her emotional therapy certification. I don't really miss my children grands and greats because not one has ever reached out to ask if I need anything. I'm at peace. I keep busy acting as my own lawyer defending myself in a divorce. Online I watch cooking videos to learn new dishes and foods. I'm a news junkie and busy solving the countries problems out loud. Watched al! lectures mysteries movies that I missed or want to see again. Ginger please direct me to where I was.

Jump to this post

@lolaemma You were here on the Depression and Anxiety group, posting on the value of an animal in your life, in that discussion. It sounds like your little dog Sheila is the right fit for you!
Ginger

REPLY
@gingerw

@haleigh1493 and @cb772 Welcome to Mayo Connect, to both of you! I'm glad you stepped into this conversation about the value of animals. Sometimes we forget how much we rely on the regular patterns that our furred/feathered/finned friends bring into our life. As a fellow depression and anxiety patient, I have found that our cat is a never-ending source of comfort for me. The first two years we had her she completely ignored anybody's lap, and slept whereever. Since December of last year she has climbed on my lap at least once a day and curls up to sleep. The simple act of petting her and supporting her calms me down tremendously. Her soft fur and complete trust is something that really suits me. My husband has told me that he can figure where she is by knowing where I am in the house!

Jump to this post

Cats are superb companions, aren't they? We have had the privilege of loving several over the years. One of ours, Mari, used to follow me everywhere, even when I went hiking in our timber! The love of an animal, that quiet, easy breathing or purring, is such a comfort. That is so cute that your husband has figured this out!

REPLY

I have had and currently have many animals in my life. I find they are easier for me than humans. Animals live in the moment and do not have hidden agendas, they are truly honest. I have loved both predator and prey animals. My little tinker bell, dachshund was definitely predator/hunter. I love parrots and horses, which amazingly have much the same personality traits as prey animals. Beware of the size difference in flight mode. I adore them both and cannot imagine my life without either. That being said, both have pretty long lifespans and you can spend so many years loving one that it is truly a catastrophic event to lose one or in my case 3 in a year. I am blessed to still have more in my life. I love my job, but………..when I am in meetings and have to have a steady diet of humans for days on end, I must go to the barn and stay for hours a few day in a row to get my balance back. I could not be more grateful to my animal friends for helping me get through the last 18 months of loss. However I do miss having that little dog ruling the house. Maybe someday I will get another.

REPLY
Please sign in or register to post a reply.
  Request Appointment