I wake up to the sound of snorting coming around to my side of the bed. I roll over to see batman ears as the bear stands up on his back legs leaning against the bed and proceeds to stretch his head back to yawn. After he drags himself under the bed, he follows me to the bathroom and lays on the bathroom mat waiting for me to get ready for the morning and take he and his brother Angus, the black Labrador out.
I have each dog by my side while I walk down the stairs for our morning walk. When out, bear has time off and on his lead. He has a terrible issue of wanting to say hello to anyone he sees. Angus on the other hand minds well and I think a lot of this has to do with the nature of a Labrador. He is quiet and patient with bear and sometimes looks to be moving in slow motion – a little like a cow. Bear on the other hand, is nonstop. He never looks to be low in energy and is easy to excite.
Like any pet owner, the boys are family. The bear follows my every move and if I fall back from a walk, it’s guaranteed he will run to find me, even if it means going home. I know he has my back, as do I his. Animals are very intuitive to our feelings. He will gently come to the couch and try to pull himself up when I’m not feeling the best. He will then lay on me like cat and proceed to snore. This is calming to me. Whilst he would normally just jump onto the couch, somehow, he knows to proceed with caution and show me he understands.
In most social situations, I struggle emotionally. I’m particularly uncomfortable in large groups and find shopping to be an exhaustive experience before I have even left the house. My anxiety and fear of people’s opinions of me can completely overtake any rational thoughts. I can hear my heart beat and it feels like the pumping of blood after you hit your thumb with a hammer. I become verklempt, mouth suddenly feels like I’ve been eating cotton balls and I begin to struggle to swallow and talk. This just adds to my anxiety and the cycle begins again.
I have often wished I had my bear with me while in those situations. Not only is he calming for me, but he also diverts my attention to looking after him.
I have heard about companion dogs for mental health issues and on further investigation, there is a not for profit in Australia – minddog.org.au – which assists in mental health suffers to procure, train and certify psychiatric assistance dogs. These dogs assist people with mental health disorders whose lives are often severely compromised by anxiety and fear. With their mindDog they are able to travel on public transport, access public places and take part in social activities which have been closed off to them.
mindDog has a Public Access Test which is comprehensive in terms of the requirements needed in the chosen dog. The tests are based on different scenarios and locations. e.g. walking, restaurant, grocery shop etc.
Knowing that the bear is excitable and generally can’t control himself from not greeting everyone, I think I’m going to have my hands full while trying to train him for this test. In in the meantime, I’ll can continue to enjoy the benefits of having him by my side – and occasionally sneaking him into places that would otherwise not allow it.
I’d love to hear anyone’s experience in accrediting their dog and if they chose them specifically as a mindDog – did training start from day1 or have others experienced trying to retrain theirs?
Big thanks in advance 🙂