|Barkley & Aydin (3)|
In 2010, I met two dogs: One Staffordshire Terrier (Barkley) and one Australian Blue Healer (Baker). Barkley and Baker taught a then-44 year old
woman (and her 3 year old grandson) not to be afraid of big dogs.
|Aydin & Baker|
|Barkley & Baker|
Baker went on a "walkabout;" leaving his owner's campsite never to return, a year plus a few months after I met him. Somewhere near Glacier Lake, he decided to run off Over the Rainbow into Heaven. I know he is waiting for a very large family to join him.
These two dogs also showed me in person, what I later learned through reading: Canines have the capability to change a human's mood as well as ability-level.
When I was crying my eyes out, both of them would lay next to me and encourage (quite forcibly) me to pet them and give them attention. As I was to learn, the very action of petting a dog releases the same hormone, oxytocin, as is released in nursing moms & babies. It is known as the "comforting hormone". Better than any anti-anxiety drug I know!
|Athena's Daddy - Ruger|
Ruger's block-headed but adorable ways absolutely thrilled me. They would both sit on my feet, demanding me to pet them when I was in pain. When I would pet them for a little while, the pain got much less intense. Sometimes I even forgot about the pain. Since I could easily deal with daily pain that reached levels of 8-9 (on a scale of 1-10); the idea that a dog could lessen that pain was astounding!
|Athena about 10 days old|
God answered my prayers. I stayed with my friends Robin, David and Katie for a month in the spring. As I was getting ready to move on they realized that in spite of being separately kenneled, Brandy had gotten pregnant with Ruger's litter.
On the first of April, 2011, I woke up to smells and sounds I had never before experienced. I went downstairs to learn that puppies were being born. Before my friends left for work and school, five puppies were born. When I went back downstairs after my shower, there was a sixth. She was later adopted by me and named "Athena Brooke" for the middle names of two of the strongest young ladies I have ever known.
|Athena 7 weeks old|
Having never raised a dog from a puppy, I had a lot of learning to do. We hit the road before she was even 8 weeks old. Although I had been planning to re-start my cross country road trip with my new-to-me BMW 525, I hadn't previously planned to have a brand-new puppy in tow! Fortunately, God had me covered; I had friends across the country who's pets and advice taught me and Athena.
Together, Athena and I visited people from Idaho to Florida. She made friends with little and big dogs, kittens and even a few house bunnies. Athena was patient with me, and I learned to get my behind out of bed earlier in the morning or pay for my laziness by
having messes to clean up.
|Smokey eating with Athena in Florida|
As a survivor of multiple traumas, I have certain symptoms that are quite distressing. One of them happens quite unexpectedly: I lose most sensations below my waist suddenly, making it difficult to walk or stand. When Athena was only 9 months old, she sat at my feet and barked me into the chair behind me. We had not had the economical ability to procure formal service-dog training for her, so I was unsure as to her intent. When I sat down, she stopped, seeming pleased with herself. Within five minutes, sure enough, I lost all feeling in my legs.
|Athena & me|
Athena has made her place in my life with this skill on many occasions. She has also calmed me, or separated me from a situation, when my PTSD acts up.
She has learned my triggers, and has learned to give notice when I am needing help.
Athena and I had many adventures in the past five years, but unfortunately we both eventually experienced some emotionally traumatic events together.
|Athena & "Uncle Barkley"|
As she gets older, and I learn more, I hope to more
formally train her. For now, she is an excellent member of the family and she is truly my very best friend.