I’m sitting on a ledge right now waiting for my word to change. Ben (service dog) will arrive in just two days and I have a feeling nothing will ever be the same. It’s been such a long, long journey that has led me to Ben and as I have reflected the past several days I realize it was a journey that began in childhood.
My first dog kiss from Liesel my first day home from the hospital
I think in fact it perhaps began as a baby on the first day home from the hospital where I was greeted with a sloppy kiss from Liesel and failed to even make a sound. It ventured on from then as I dressed Liesel up in hats, clothes and sat on her like she was a horse. Liesel never complained. When she was done with my antics she simply got up and moved. And it was Liesel who gave me my first lesson in loss and that the fact that I will always outlive my best friends.
Amelia entered my life when I was six and joined Liesel whom she would know for about two years. As I learned to read I discovered a
love for all things dog related. I would read everything I could get my hands on about dogs. I read above my grade level so I began to read things about service dogs. Guide dogs mostly as that is primarily what service dogs were used for at that time. I became obsessed with the bond that a dog could have with a person and the way they could help them. When I was eight my country 4-H project was a research project about guide dogs.
At the end of elementary school Connor joined our family and my love affair with all things dogs continued. Posters, magnets, book after book, cards, wrapping paper, stuffed dogs etc. were scattered all over my room. I learned how to train and show dogs and gradually began to teach beginning obedience where I got to pass on (by that time a wealth of) knowledge to children. I loved it. I saw bonds form between children and their dogs. Most memorable was that of an autistic child and his dog Bugs.
I was again researched service dogs for a school research project. By this time I was fascinated to lean that not only were there guide dogs but there were seizure dogs, wheelchair dogs, deaf assistance dogs and diabetes alert dogs. I made it my goal to someday work to train these gifted animals and watch them be paired with a handler that was desperatley in need of them.
Fast forward to college where I decorated my dorm room with dog posters and kept more pictures of my dogs around than I did my family. For the first time in my life I was away from my dogs and it hurt. My comforters were gone and I felt immedienatly lonely although I was surrounded by many people. At this point I knew even more surely that nothing could ever take the place of dogs in my life.
Two years later everything imploded. Feelings, emotions, fears and abuse that I was barely managing through the first 19 years of my life suddenly became too months. Enter treatment stay number one. I had to relearn how to socialize here. How to talk to people about things other than my anorexia. My therapist wisely advised that I talk about dogs. I told her no one wanted to hear about dogs all the time but she told me to do it anyways. And so I babbled on about Amelia Bedelia, Connor and Liesel. I wrote in my journal night after night that I was choosing recovery for them. The bond I had with my dogs now was not only something that I loved but it was literally saving my life.
Ten months later I came home and immediantly adopted Shona. Shona who makes me laugh, is an utter clown and pulled me out of a deep depression. I left three months later for treatment stay number dos but again it was for Shona I was recovering for. I arrived home and there she was waiting for me. Since then Shona has been my rock. I haven’t spent a night away from her except when I have been hospitalized. It was when I realized the effect she had on me that I suddenly discovered the concept of a mental health service dog.
And so I researched. Could a service dog really help me? All those years of appreciating dogs and I not only qualified for one but drastically needed the support they could provide. I was blown away and so I began making calls. That was when I found Heeling Allies. And now over a year later and many thousands of dollars raised I will be receiving my service dog. That intial bond with Liesel, followed by my love for Amelia and Connor, my research and admiration of service dogs and finally my motivation for recovery has finally come to a point that it can all be combined and used to help me become well.
When I think about it too hard I become speechless. Dogs have always been my best therapist even without proffessional training and now I am going to be joined with a campionon whose job is to help me function. It’s weird the way things sometimes fall into place or perhaps not so weird. Perhaps God knew all along.
p.s. In a bizarre twist of fate Ben looks very similar to Liesel. I’m in love with him already.
Liesel and I