Tomorrow, ends the first week of school. For me that has meant three different courses, two therapy appointments and some wonderful (and much needed) friend time. Oh and also a lot of Ben bonding. 🙂
Ben has in fact settled into school easier and quicker than I have. He starts waiting at the door fifteen minutes early and loves prancing through campus or the halls. It’s so interesting to observe how people respond to him and I. Today was the third day of school and I talked to three girls who asked about them. I even told one girl that he was a mental health dog instead of my alert dog (which is the truth but a mental health dog is dog is what he really is) and told her I had severe anxiety. She told me she had several friends who had struggled.
And I’m learning a dog is a great equalizer. No matter race, class, gender (which is a constructed concept as I learned today) or age people tell me that Ben is beautiful or that he is such a great dog. Dog lovers and other people cannot help but react to Ben no matter who they are. Ben also brings out people’s vulnerable side as they talk or pet to him. I disappear as Ben becomes the object of their affection. An older gentlemen came all the way out to my car in the parking lot so he could say hi to Ben. Students who are so intent on keeping people away let their guard down when they pet or whisper things to Ben. I see a vulnerable side of people that I am learning to call the Ben effect. And this vulnerability has two sides to the same coin. For some (many students) they have perfected a facade that on the outside says everything is fine but when they pet Ben I can see all that fall away and realize like me they are hurting in ways too. And then there are the people who are obviously hurting. When they pet Ben some of that sadness falls away and is replaced by joy.
I spent two years as a psychology major thinking I was learning about what was wrong with me (yeah…that didn’t work) and how I could someday figure out what was wrong with others but for Ben this takes two seconds. And all he does is wave his tail, melt when petted or give them looks of adoration. And I just stand back and watch Ben do what comes naturally to him – love others.