Puppy-raising can be therapy
At the same time that Parnell arrived in our home, I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. Fortunately it was found early. The first inclination was to send Parnie back, but he was an adorable puppy and it is also not in my nature to give up on things readily. If surgery was decided on, to continue with a puppy would be impossible for me, and not fair on him. When the specialists recommended radiation and drug therapy, my wife and I decided it was feasible for us to continue.
We usually think of puppy raising as what we contribute to a dog, more than what the dog contributes to us. In our case, it became a very equal arrangement as Parnie contributed a lot to me.
Firstly I appreciated his constant companionship. I was never bed ridden, but had lots of little rests. At those times he would flop down beside my chair, or keep wandering in to check that I was still there. We had so much time together. Sometimes I was rather down, and his presence reminded me that life goes on.
Second, I experienced his amazing empathy. Dogs know when we are ill by detecting minute changes in our body odor. They instinctively know how we are feeling, and seem to adjust accordingly.
Thirdly, being a very active dog, he pushed me to get up and get going, doing the walks, the training sessions and so on. He would never let me off the hook. He has that particular 'look' that says it's time to get moving. You can't postpone a dog's needs till tomorrow, so I was firmly motivated to stay active
Was it detrimental to his puppy raising ? I don't think so. We did everything we should do and more. He had lots of visits to hospital, specialists rooms, got experience in working with someone with a few limitations, and had a lot of contact with my grandchildren who helped with his program.
Was it helpful to me ? Yes, definitely, because mental and emotional health is a significant component in medical therapy, and Parnie gave me lots of positives in those spheres. Maybe we know this is a dimension dogs can contribute. I was privileged to experience it.
At the end of the year, I have a clear cancer report, and Parnie is ready for training School. My hope and prayer is that he will make many more positive contributions to someone's life, like he has to mine.
Posted: Sun 08 Jan 2012
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