DOG THERAPY

If you are sick and tired of hearing about my dog, stop reading now. I realize it’s just as annoying as hearing new mothers talk of their babies’ poop. But, you see, I recently came across scientific proof that dogs can be helpful in the therapeutic recovery of PTSD patients. We knew that dogs can assist the blinds, the police department and the DEA but dogs as substitute to therapy? I know I am stretching it a bit.

Having gone through three “bouts” of therapy to help me solve temporary problems I am a good advocate for the argument that therapy works. I also came to believe it can, at times, become self-serving, especially the kind of talk therapy where the therapist gives  feedback, if not advice. I got tired of listening to the same stuff over and over and came to the conclusion that I knew myself well enough to establish what was going on and it was just a matter of using the tools I already possessed  to make the most appropriate choices. In my own time. My dog, on the other hand, offered no advice, listened at a much cheaper rate and kept me sane during the trauma stage. First of all, he helped establish a routine. He would nudge me awake in the morning and forced me to think about his physical needs which equated to my getting up. And once up…Later in the day, he would demand some exercise which would usually clear my head and get me out of the house. And, when all else failed, and I succumbed to fits of wailing, he would patiently sit next to me, his spirit unflappably cheerful – we would watch endless BBC drama series on the couch together, go to sleep together and he would give me a reason to come home after work, always invariably happy to see me. Looking back, Ottie was the glue that kept me together for quite some time. Yes, I had friends and family listening to my sobbing, taking me out or offering me to and even flying me across the world but Ottie was the one who was here, making the house less lonely, the bed a bit warmer and always eager to listen to my stories or switching my attention to the passing squirrels he would chase.

So it came as no surprise to read that Iraq and Afghan vets with strong PTSD symptoms  are being “equipped” with specially trained puppies that can respond to 85 commands such as “watch my back” or “block” besides the more usual ones. After a few weeks of living with the dogs, the vets experience more restful nights and are able to lower the dosages of medication taken to control the worst of the symptoms. Each dog costs close to $20,000 to train but I assume it’s a small price to pay for the long-term savings and the peace of mind of those who served and came back to a hellish life.

Ottie didn’t cost that much and he barely listens to me unless I ask him to do something interesting. But he will defend me, he will welcome my friends, accompany me on shopping trips, drag me on long hikes and offer a kiss when asked. Hell, he even waited patiently in the car once while I was in my therapy session. Ottie is grateful to have found this home and shows me any way he can but it’s I who have a bigger debt of gratitude. Little did I know when he came into my life how big of a part he would  play.If you ever ask, I would be happy to share the names and phone numbers of my shrinks but I would be equally glad to point you in the direction of the boxer shelter that paired me with Ottie. Best money ever spent.


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