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.)

Interested in more discussions like this? Go to the Depression & Anxiety group.

First of all hats off to you for coming out of a difficult and dark place I would like to share that ever since my child hood I had pets parrots pigeons etc I loved taking care of them but then life got busy with med school getting married raising children time flew away suddenly it all came to a halt my eldest passed away at an age of 22 it was a terrible blow it tested my faith my ability to comprehend things just went away I lost interest in life no one could help me till an angel with four legs came to rescue me his name is Apple he is eight years old a terrier but to me he is a saviour and my dearest family member thanks to him I have the strength to accept the things I can’t change although it still hurts a lot but he is there to drag me out of despair my son passed away in June 8 years back and Apple came to me in august 8 years ago

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I have battled depression and anxiety for about 4-5 years now. For most of those years, I couldn't have a dog due to being in college and renting. I didn't realize I needed an emotional support animal until late spring of 2019. I got a note from my doctor and found a young dog who I could train to help with my depression, anxiety, and anger issues. I have had Millie since July 28th, 2019 and she has helped me so much. I feel calmer, happier, and more satisfied having her around. She is such a snuggle bug and helps me sleep better. Even though it has only been a year, I can't imagine my life without my 8 pound pomapoo girl.

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@haleigh1493

I have battled depression and anxiety for about 4-5 years now. For most of those years, I couldn't have a dog due to being in college and renting. I didn't realize I needed an emotional support animal until late spring of 2019. I got a note from my doctor and found a young dog who I could train to help with my depression, anxiety, and anger issues. I have had Millie since July 28th, 2019 and she has helped me so much. I feel calmer, happier, and more satisfied having her around. She is such a snuggle bug and helps me sleep better. Even though it has only been a year, I can't imagine my life without my 8 pound pomapoo girl.

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I completely understand. If it weren't for my babies I'd stay in bed all day. Knowing they need me gets me going every day. I'm so happy for you & Millie! 💗

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@haleigh1493

I have battled depression and anxiety for about 4-5 years now. For most of those years, I couldn't have a dog due to being in college and renting. I didn't realize I needed an emotional support animal until late spring of 2019. I got a note from my doctor and found a young dog who I could train to help with my depression, anxiety, and anger issues. I have had Millie since July 28th, 2019 and she has helped me so much. I feel calmer, happier, and more satisfied having her around. She is such a snuggle bug and helps me sleep better. Even though it has only been a year, I can't imagine my life without my 8 pound pomapoo girl.

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@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!

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@liz223

We have Wally. We adopted him from a friend who could no longer keep him. He is our baby and we love him dearly. We have always had a dog and later took in a stray kitty who showed up on our deck. I totally believe a pet is helpful in our lives. They offer unconditional love and companionship. Also we need the responsibility of caring for them. It is wonderful to return home and have Wally to greet you as if you’ve been gone days instead of hours. 🙂

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Wally is quite a doll baby. We have two shih tzus. They are mom and son. We got her ten years ago in November. She had three babies in my bedroom. I knew she was pregnant when we got her from the pound. She had her babies one week later in my room. I was beside myself–our other doggies had died six months apart in 2010. Then we got Gracie in November 2010. She had three adorable babies, two girls and one boy. The vet told us they were pedigreed shih tzus. We kept them all for five months–after they had eaten everything they could reach, all wooden knobs, all bottoms of furniture, chewed on the rungs off my antique rocking chairs. I decided we couldn't keep them because they kept doing their business and peeing all over the house. They were born in the middle of winter and I just couldn't bring myself to put the out in the snow to go. So, I decided to give them to someone who would love them and give them good homes. I found wonderful people for them. Then I cried and cried and wanted them back. I called the people and they had fallen so in love with them, they wouldn't part with them. I couldn't blame them. Now that we have had these two for ten years, the mom is old and she is beginning to do what they did — just go wherever she feels like it. I am way too old but there is no way I can ever get rid of her or her boy. My husband and I love them both so very much. Our own children have been gone for many years and have children and grandchildren of their own. We are lucky to have visits from them but during the pandemic, we don't see anyone! We are very lucky to have our dogs! We talk more to them than we do to each other, I think. Or, we talk about our dogs to each other. It's a good thing we do have them! If I ever figure out how to post pictures on here, I will.

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@jimhd

@ayankeeinnm @danybegood1 @liz223

Our daughter’s shih tzu, Toby, is causing her a lot of stress. Every time her baby cries or makes some other sound, Toby barks. He doesn’t do it around any other baby, and he doesn’t react to our granddaughter’s recorded crying. They’re doing everything that a trainer, who came to their home, recommended.

So, to give them a break, we’re bringing Toby home with us after our visit with them for Thanksgiving. By the time they come here for Christmas, we are hoping that Toby will move past this habit, and they can take him back home. Our daughter is feeling the stress of tending to her baby, and at the same time, having to deal with the dog. We hope that Toby gets along with our Pete and Sadie. They were here for a week two months ago, so I’m sure they’ll take up where they left off.

I don’t think I mentioned that a month or two ago, Sadie was attacked by two large rottweiler/lab mix dogs, and would soon have been killed without my pulling her away from them and kicking them off her. One had her flank and was shaking her, while the other was at her throat. At one point, she was on her back. I was able to drag her to a door that was close by. She had a tear under her chin, and a number of puncture wounds on her back. I took her right to the vet, who cleaned the wounds, and gave her some antibiotics to take for a few days.

Sadie is now afraid of other dogs, and has regressed in some of her training. I’m a little concerned that she could turn aggressive toward other dogs. She had overcome her timidity in new places, but we’re back to working on that. I have her sit beside me if another dog is around, and reassure her that she’s ok. Of course, being a service dog, she’s not supposed to interact with other dogs or people, so it’s ok if she snuggles up to me when people (or dogs) approach her or speak to her.

We’re both still recovering from that trauma. I think that in time, Sadie will settle down and become less fearful with lots of calm reassurance. She’s still comfortable in familiar settings and with people and animals she knows. I hope we’ll overcome this, because I don’t want to lose her as my service dog.

Someone suggested I find a kennel club, so she could sit with me and just watch dogs in a safe place, but I haven’t been able to find any place like that around. I might try taking her to a dog park while we’re at our daughter’s next week, and keep her on the leash, without any interaction with dogs. We’ll see how it goes.

Jim

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I had a shih tzu who barked every time a baby cried, either my grandson or a baby on tv. They are alerting the person that the baby is crying. They are great baby watchers–they tell you, your baby is crying. I don't know how they will get the dog to stop. I just said thank you to our dog.

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@woogie

I had a shih tzu who barked every time a baby cried, either my grandson or a baby on tv. They are alerting the person that the baby is crying. They are great baby watchers–they tell you, your baby is crying. I don't know how they will get the dog to stop. I just said thank you to our dog.

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@woogie I'm sad to say that Toby died a couple of months ago, just days before our daughter and family came up to visit. The vet prescribed dog Prozac for Toby, and he stopped the howling. It was a hard time for her. She had gotten Toby while she was still living with us, and my Aussie/Border Collie loved him. Barnabas played so gently with the tiny ball of fur. We pretty much raised Toby his first year because our daughter worked the long graveyard shift. Then they moved to Seattle – supposedly to go to WU, but we knew it was because she wanted to be close to her boyfriend. Fortunately she figured out that he wasn't the person she would want to marry before it was too late.

One of the services my dogs have done is to protect my space. We didn't call it social distancing, but that's just what Sadie does, to help me with PTSD. People don't like it because they see it as "why is your dog in my way? Why isn't she better trained?" But in busy places I don't like to be crowded, and Sadie sits or lies down next to me. Any time I stop to look at something more than 15 or 20 seconds she goes down. Her service for depression is lying on my core, technically called deep tissue stimulation therapy.

I'm needing her services more than usual these days. Depression is creeping in with anxiety following close behind. It usually helps to be outside planting, watering, weeding, but not so much when my feet hurt as much as they are today. Our driveway is a quarter mile long and last year I worked long hours cutting back the bushy weeds that get 6' tall and encroach on the driveway and scratch the sides of the car. The trunks were so big that I had to use loppers that are intended to trim tree branches. So, this year I decided to spray them with Roundup. I walked it twice today for the second application. So, my feet are hurting even more than usual. And pain gets tied up with depression. Usually when I'm working outside, Sadie is never far away, but I had to keep the dogs in the house while I did the spraying, so I didn't have my canine therapist running around, hunting gophers and ground squirrels, running over to check on me. I'm not sure who is helping whom sometimes.
Jim

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I agree that animals are an important part of our lives, our families. We had dogs for many years, but when our son was deployed to Iraq, we ended up with four cats, and then added three of our own for different reasons. Living with seven cats was wonderful; they were indeed a diversion from my mental health problems, but I will say they were a pain as far as keeping the house clean. The amount of fur seven cats put out is mind-boggling. There was always enough hair to knit a cat! But, the cats served to give us a purpose and a schedule. I would not have believed it not ever having a cat before, that cats have very strong and differing personalities just like people, and they choose the person they want to belong to. We had great fun with them. We have a small house, so finding separate places to feed everyone was difficult, but we did it: one in the two bedrooms, one in the two bathrooms, one in the kitchen, one in the living room, and one in the laundry room. And as they aged and needed to have quiet time away from the other cats, one of the bedrooms became the "hospital" ward. We have two cats remaining, two toms, Baby and Mo. Baby is 13 and Mo only 2. They are an absolute hoot. I will never be able to go to the bathroom alone again; Mo follows me in – sometimes leads the way – and throws himself down on the bathroom rug and goes through shenanigans you wouldn't believe, and the more I talk to him, the more he carries on. He is a real joy in this time of pandemic and rioting. Oh, I forgot to say that when our son deployed to Iraq, so did his wife, and we took on the job of raising their 6-month-old baby, Kai, for two years. A little harder taking care of a baby when you are 20 than when you are 50. But we loved every minute of it; it will be one of our stick-out memories. Of course, when they came home (safe, we thanked God) we were so sad to have Kai go home with them. Happy but sad. We missed him terribly. He's 17 now, a fine, healthy boy who wants to follow in his father's footsteps. Our son was an officer in the army first with a tank platoon and then with a sniper platoon. Our grandson wants to be Special Forces. I have always wondered why they couldn't be accountants! Well, I am so sorry to hear about your loss, but so glad you have another "friend." Dogs are the very best kind. Be safe.

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@vickimurray

I agree that animals are an important part of our lives, our families. We had dogs for many years, but when our son was deployed to Iraq, we ended up with four cats, and then added three of our own for different reasons. Living with seven cats was wonderful; they were indeed a diversion from my mental health problems, but I will say they were a pain as far as keeping the house clean. The amount of fur seven cats put out is mind-boggling. There was always enough hair to knit a cat! But, the cats served to give us a purpose and a schedule. I would not have believed it not ever having a cat before, that cats have very strong and differing personalities just like people, and they choose the person they want to belong to. We had great fun with them. We have a small house, so finding separate places to feed everyone was difficult, but we did it: one in the two bedrooms, one in the two bathrooms, one in the kitchen, one in the living room, and one in the laundry room. And as they aged and needed to have quiet time away from the other cats, one of the bedrooms became the "hospital" ward. We have two cats remaining, two toms, Baby and Mo. Baby is 13 and Mo only 2. They are an absolute hoot. I will never be able to go to the bathroom alone again; Mo follows me in – sometimes leads the way – and throws himself down on the bathroom rug and goes through shenanigans you wouldn't believe, and the more I talk to him, the more he carries on. He is a real joy in this time of pandemic and rioting. Oh, I forgot to say that when our son deployed to Iraq, so did his wife, and we took on the job of raising their 6-month-old baby, Kai, for two years. A little harder taking care of a baby when you are 20 than when you are 50. But we loved every minute of it; it will be one of our stick-out memories. Of course, when they came home (safe, we thanked God) we were so sad to have Kai go home with them. Happy but sad. We missed him terribly. He's 17 now, a fine, healthy boy who wants to follow in his father's footsteps. Our son was an officer in the army first with a tank platoon and then with a sniper platoon. Our grandson wants to be Special Forces. I have always wondered why they couldn't be accountants! Well, I am so sorry to hear about your loss, but so glad you have another "friend." Dogs are the very best kind. Be safe.

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@vickimurray Oh yes, animals play a big part in a persons life. My Lily at 14, but very healthy was a papillon. I had to give her up because I had a big 9 hour surgery and could not take care of her. She did not like my husband and got anxiety knowing I was in pain. She stayed my me constantly and was not happy. I e-mailed where we would board her and the owner e-mailed me back, "Can we have Lily, we Love Lily." So she's in a loving place, but I miss her tremendously. I hope to get another dog after I have healed fully.
Bless all of you animal lovers.

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Thank you for the welcome to your group.

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My Service Dog, "Beau Geste" has completely changed my life for the better. He is a two and a half year old Standard Poodle. He can tell when I am going to have an episode before I know, signals me so I can go sit down and then he climbs onto my lap and gives me 65# of compression therapy as he licks the back of my neck to help me stay present. I have Conversion Tremors and PTSD, Beau has gone through extensive training with me and in obedience classes, where he blew the doors off all the other dogs in his class. We work together on obedience exercises daily which helps to enforce good obedience training and strengthens our bond. Beau gets a bath and I groom him myself every other week because he sleeps next to me, if I have night terrors, he will wake me up. I am so grateful for the unconditional love Beau has brought to our family, he loves hubby, our grown kids and grandkids equally it seems.May you all be safe and have good days.

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@lilypaws

@vickimurray Oh yes, animals play a big part in a persons life. My Lily at 14, but very healthy was a papillon. I had to give her up because I had a big 9 hour surgery and could not take care of her. She did not like my husband and got anxiety knowing I was in pain. She stayed my me constantly and was not happy. I e-mailed where we would board her and the owner e-mailed me back, "Can we have Lily, we Love Lily." So she's in a loving place, but I miss her tremendously. I hope to get another dog after I have healed fully.
Bless all of you animal lovers.

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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

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