01 April 2016

A Woman's Best Friend

Barkley & Aydin (3)
For six years I have been learning about the interaction of dogs and humans.
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
Even when they are capable of killing. Barkley was, and did on several occasions while I was living in close quarters with him. Interestingly enough, he never did it in front of me. When I saw him (soon after he had done "the deed"), he would cower in a corner and shake, as if he knew what he did was wrong... he just couldn't help himself. His owner (and the neighbors) always were quick to forgive.
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
When I met another pair of dogs, Brandy (chocolate Lab) and Ruger (Blue Pit-Bull), owned by the same extended family; I fell in love.

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
When Athena and I had been traveling and living together for less than a year, she made her true "job" or "service" apparent to me.

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"
She was left with a habit of barking, making it difficult to socialize her enough to use her as a formal service animal.

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.

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