Thursday, October 15, 2009

Wellness Activity: Pet Therapy

While I've written about this before, I must tell you that aside from gardening, one of the reasons I'm feeling so much better this year is due to my dog Jack. As many of you know, my mother died in October of 2007, my black Lab Murphy died in December, and my black terrier-chihuahua mix Spike died the following August.

Because Spike had been incontinent the last few months (and because our carpeting was 25 years old), after Spike's death we re-carpeted the entire house. And I promised my husband we'd be dog free for a year.

But, this was very difficult for me because I love dogs. I love their companionship. I love taking them for walks. I love petting them. I love how happy they are to see me when I return home. I love taking care of them in every way.

In April of this year, I began checking out to see if I could find a small terrier-chihuahua mix, but who was a light brown color rather than black because of our new carpeting. I had promised my husband we'd get a light colored dog although I also told him that telling rescue organizations we wanted a dog who matched our carpet might be cause for concern :).

Still, it turned out that about four months ago, I found Jack (formerly named Pinot Gris) who seemed to fit the bill. And when we first met him, we liked him very much, but now I'm madly in love with him.

What is it about a rescue dog that so appeals to me? I guess there is a soulfulness about them that touches my heart. To be abandoned by a family who once loved you must be a terrible thing.

In Jack's case, it turns out that he lived with a family for the first five years of his life. Then their house was foreclosed and they turned him over to a rescue group. But nobody adopted him for two years.

While it's almost impossible for me to figure out why because he is a most loving and smart dog--and he's adorable--actually I know that he barked at strangers when they took him to parks to be seen, he limped because of a car accident, and he didn't like big dogs because he was kept in a foster home with Pit Bulls (and he only weighs 15 pounds).

What's kind of unbelievable to me is that after dog obedience class, Jack no longer barks at strangers on the street or at big dogs unless they're off their leashes. And he no longer limps because walking him twice a day has strengthened the leg that had been operated on.

What's quite wonderful is finding a dog who is everything that I was looking for...and is so grateful to be loved and so loving in return that it brings tears to my eyes, and a song in my heart.


susan said...

You hit the nail on the head. Pets are better than Prozac- and they give you their love and become your best friends. I would be lost without my cats, the one I have now, and the one that was before. Both were rescued, and both were abandoned by their previous owners. I don't know why, my girls have been wonderful.

I am in the process of trying to acquire a therapy dog- my apartment complex won't let me have a dog any other way, and it would be good for me to have a dog so I would have to walk it and deal with problems I have in public now.

I am glad you have your dog friend! Will you be posting a photo of him in the future?

sallyo said...

I'm so glad you found the perfect dog for you. I agree that they bring great joy to our lives. It's always amazing to me to see how perceptive they are to our moods.
Wishing Jack a long and joy-filled life with you!

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Susan,
You're sure right about having a dog friend, and I've read about your cats on your blog.

I can see that having a dog would be great for you. For the last few weeks when I was feeling down, I took Jack with me almost everywhere, except for my classes, and the library.

When I wrote this post last night, I was on my laptop and didn't have access to a photo of Jack. But, this morning I moved to my desktop, where I do. This is a photo I took after we first got him.

Your comment reminded me that I need to take more recent ones. Believe it or not, Jack actually smiles and talks (after a fashion). I've never had another dog do either! But I did read about this in Bark magazine.


Wellness Writer said...

Dear sallyo,
You're sure right. Maybe we always pick perfect dogs because we have a kinship with them that doesn't require words. It's all from the heart.


susan said...

Susan, Jack is beautiful! May I use him with permission and a shout out for the piece I am working on therapy dogs?

I don't know your email, so I hope it's OK I am asking like this.

Regarding the photos- I only have 24 pictures of the cat who came before my current cat. My big regret, not taking more pictures.

Wellness Writer said...

You may certainly use the photo of Jack for your piece on therapy dogs. I think it's a great idea, and wish that more people understood how valuable pets can be.

I know people who totally shut down during a depression, and feel that having a pet would be too great of a responsibility.

I feel it's just the opposite. In the same way that I always needed to be there for my son when he was younger, and for my husband (to a lesser degree), I always needed to feed and walk our dogs.

So, I made myself do it--even when the pure physicality of it seemed almost impossible. And, because of my son, husband, mother (who also needed me during the last years of her life), and dogs, I was able to withstand horrific depressive episodes.


More Than Conquerors said...

Dear Susan,

I am thankful that you are feeling better. Glad to know you are blessed with such a sweet friend in Jack. Jack is a sweetie :) I have read of how therapeutic having a pet can be and it's good to know that it is helping you. Hope you continue to feel better. Take care and have a great weekend!

Praying always,

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Nancie,
As always, it's so nice to hear from you. Thanks for your good wishes. I know you're praying for me, and that's so kind!


mmaaggnnaa said...

Hey, Susan -

Pets are such a god-send, aren't they! It's all about the love.

Thanks for sharing your story! I'm so glad you have such an awesome buddy -- and that he matches your carpet, LOL.

- Marie (Coming Out of the Trees)

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Marie,
Thanks! Your comment made me smile!


havisham said...

Hi, Susan,

I ran across your wonderful blog via Catatonic Kid's links. I'm bipolar and though I've had a blog for a while, I'm just finally starting to get serious about learning how to navigate around and find others with similar interests (and concerns).

I'm enjoying the posts, but I have to say that I almost wish I hadn't read about Jack. Well, sort of. For the longest time, since having to give away my golden retriever (relocation from the country to the city; fortunately, I found her a home with an extremely grateful farm couple who had just lost their saint bernard, so she's treated with much love), I promised myself I would never again get another pet. But after reading this--and getting all emotional--I'm looking forward to retiring in a few years (back to the country) and being able to find another dog. I'd shut down that side of myself and hadn't realized how much I missed having a dog around.

So your post was a bittersweet sort of experience. But I thank you for waking me up!

Your comment about matching a dog to your carpet nearly made me snort my coffee up my nose. I laughed so hard!

Oh, speaking of wellness dogs--my brother raises Chesapeake Bay retrievers and one of his pups--who was the "runt--has ended up working at hospitals, visiting patients and cheering them up. There's nothing like a happy dog to make someone's day!

Btw, what a great pic of Jack. He's too adorable for words!


Wellness Writer said...

Dear Sooz,
Welcome to my blog. Yes, I can imagine reading about Jack would have made you feel sad. It must have been so difficult to give up your dog.

Actually, I know about dogs who visit hospital patients. And, there is a training program too. Jack isn't that friendly to strangers, but I love the idea of doing that.

And, I'm glad my comment about Jack matching the carpeting made you laugh. Later, I decided that if people don't get my sense of humor; they would probably have snorted with derision rather than laughing.


Tamara (TC) Staples said...


What a beautiful post. How lucky you and Jack are to have found one another! He sounds like a very special guy.

I agree...dogs are the best. Mine can lift me out of even the darkest of moods.


Wellness Writer said...

Dear Tamara,
I think we're really lucky to have that kind of relationship with our dogs, don't you?