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Man’s Best Friend is Addict’s Best Friend too 19 Sep 2017

Man’s Best Friend is Addict’s Best Friend too

Throughout history, dogs have served many purposes for human beings, some good and some bad. Dogs have helped us to hunt, they have served as entertainment in horrific dog fighting rings, they have helped us to find missing people, helped the blind to walk freely and offered us loyal companionship. Dogs have the ability to wear many hats. Sometimes dogs are even more effective than their human counterparts. For example, a DEA agent may be able to rip apart someone’s car, but a dog’s sense of smell is forty times greater than that of the average human being. This allows them to know when there are drugs in a vehicle before they even step foot into it. This makes law enforcement’s job a whole lot easier.

How’s Lassie Going to Help Me Stay Clean?

I’m sure all of you would prefer to hang out and play with dogs instead of sitting in a circle and discussing your emotional trauma and feelings all day. But it’s not just more enjoyable, clinical research shows that it’s effective in treating addiction and preventing future relapse. In a study regarding the use of therapy dogs with adult substance abuse clients, authors Cydney Cross (co-founder of “Out of the Pits”), Janice Underwood (Volunteer rescue, rehabilitation and education) and Terri Miller (addictions counselor, Seton Health System Addictons Services) found that adult substance abuse clients who were exposed to therapy dogs had better clinical outcomes than clients who did not. It’s not as if dogs have the ability to magically make an addict not relapse, but when the clients were exposed to the therapy dogs they behaved in a manner that was conducive to their recovery.

When I was in treatment it typically took me two weeks or more just to look someone in the eye or say hello. In this study, they observed that 64% of participants engaged in a social activity after a session with the animals. They also found that nurturing rescue dogs helped them to feel safer and allowed them to become more vulnerable regarding their pasts. This had a significant impact on their success in the program because this allowed the counselors to treat their core issues. These were issues they may not have known about had it not been for the therapy dog sessions. Clients were able to tap into their empathetic side by identifying with the abused rescue dogs. They felt comfortable around them because they could relate to each other. A lot of insight was gained into the self-esteem and boundary issues of the clients when there was perceived rejection from the therapy dogs. Nearly 1/5 of clients withdrew from activities when the therapy dogs withdrew from their initial approach. Eventually, many clients admitted that their behavior with the dog mirrored their behavior and expectations with human relationships. These temporary relationships with the therapy dogs allowed them to explore what caused their addiction in the first place.

woman playing with her dog

12 Step Calls with Canines

In the “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous, there is a passage that states the following; “there is no greater insurance against relapse than intensive work with other alcoholics.” This is almost as true when it comes to canines; working with rescue dogs teaches you how to love something and how to be loved with no expectations. These clients learned how to nurture a broken being back to health and safety. They also learned how to enjoy positive companionship without the use of drugs or sex. Let’s certainly hope without the use of sex in this case. Let’s just be glad they were rescue dogs and not drug-sniffing dogs, am I right?!

The truth is that while you think you’re saving the dog, the dog is really saving you. When I got clean this last time I had the pleasure of moving back into my parent’s house with their rescue dog Molly. Molly is a female Labrador Retriever/Golden Retriever mix who was left on the side of the road in the state of Georgia. Luckily she was picked up and rescued as a small puppy and taken to a shelter where they found good homes for abandoned and abused dogs called “Home for Good”.

When I first met Molly she was still a puppy, less than one year old. She would only stay near my mother and was terrified of my father and I. I made a habit of slowly trying to warm up to her every day. I would give her treats and take her for short walks. At first, it didn’t work very well but eventually, she started to open up and enjoy herself. I remember the first time she allowed me to give her a hug and pet her on the head. I felt like I had accomplished so much; I thought I had saved her. The truth is that Molly saved me, not the other way around. She taught me how to love, how to nurture, how to be gentle and how to empathize. I learned more from taking care of her than I ever have in a human therapists office. For this, I will be forever grateful to her. Now she’s totally spoiled and enjoys being around all of us but that’s a whole other discussion.

Freedom From Addiction

If you or a loved one is suffering from alcoholism or addiction, understand that you are not alone in your struggles! If you are ready to change your life and finally be free of your addiction, then Holistic Recovery Centers can help. We can give you the jump start you need in order to experience the recovery you have always wanted. Our holistic programs are unique in that they don’t just treat the addiction, but rather they treat the whole person, so if you are interested in finding out more information, please do not hesitate to give us a call today at 1-877-723-7117.