October is National Adopt a Shelter Dog month: How pets can help people heal

Dogs are loyal loving creatures who can add love and healing to human being’s lives, and there are many homeless pets sitting in shelters waiting for the right person to take them home.

WASHINGTON, DC, October 26, 2012 - October is National Adopt a Shelter Dog Month.

Dogs are loyal loving creatures who can add love and healing to human being’s lives, and there are many homeless pets sitting in shelters waiting for the right person to take them home.

Research shows that animals, dogs in particular, help reduce stress levels and can lower blood pressure in humans.

Karen Allen, a social psychologist at the State University of New York at Buffalo School of Medicine, studied sixty men and women caregivers who were caring for ill spouses.  All sixty caregivers had high blood pressure and were being treated for hypertension. Half of the caregivers in the study adopted dogs and their blood pressure dropped dramatically.

Study after study has shown that dogs help with their human owner’s health, mentally and physically.

But I don’t need a study to show me that pets help people heal.

Because of my past as a trafficked child, and the eight years I spent on the streets of New York, I had no trust left in my soul for human beings.  My faith in mankind had been broken. 

My dog Scooby helped me heal. Scooby brought me back to the world and to myself. He was my faithful companion for over thirteen years and I miss him deeply for so many reasons.

On October 13th, 2012 Scooby took his last breath; I held his dying body as the vet injected him with drugs to end his life. Somehow I found the strength I needed to take him to the vet so his pain could end. I had to carry him to the car and inside the vet’s office because he could not walk anymore.  It was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, and I have been through some very difficult events in my life.

I’d been sleeping in the living room for over a year with Scooby because he could no longer walk up the stairs to the bedroom. During the last two days of his life, he did not eat or drink anything, he had cancer and arthritis and back problems. He was a brave, brave little dog he never cried in pain and never complained. He was a stoic little dog and my faithful companion for many long years.

I adopted Scooby from the shelter because my daughter wanted a dog thirteen years ago. That lasted about two days. He quickly became my dog, and I welcomed the responsibility of caring for him. For the first time in the many years I lived in my home, I ventured out and went for long walks in my neighborhood.  All because of Scooby.  Because of him, I discovered lovely parks and streams right beside my home. I found out that my neighborhood has gardens and walking paths and many other people with dogs. I got to know each of them, and found that I could be friendly with humans as well as animals, because of Scooby. 

Scooby was more than a dog to me he was my best friend and he helped bring me back from complete isolation and mistrust of the entire human race.

On our long walks I would talk to him about my past, I would tell him things I had never told anyone else. And he listened.  I like to believe he understood some part of my words, and he did understand some of them for sure. When I had to leave him here at home I’d say to him, ‘be right back’ and he would stop trying to go with me. If I told him ‘let’s go for a walk’ he would go stand by the door. He was a smart little dog and I loved him.  

Dogs love us unconditionally, and they are unconditionally loyal.  When I share my story in speaking engagements, I used to liken the time I was trafficked on the streets of New York to being raised by animals, but I no longer say that because I feel it is a disservice to animals who I believe have more integrity, unconditional love and loyalty than the people and the man who trafficked me ever did.

I recently read the story about a pit bull dog named Cheyenne who saved former U.S. Air Force security guard David Sharpe’s life. Sharpe, who suffered from P.T.S.D. and depression after tours of duty in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, had tried to commit suicide and he had put a gun in his mouth, he was ready to pull the trigger when he felt Cheyenne lick his ear. David opened his eyes when he felt her tongue and he came back to his senses and began to think of life and not taking his own, all because of Cheyenne’s love.

Since then, Sharpe founded an organization called P2V (Pets to Vets), which matches military service members and first-responder rescue workers who need help to heal with shelter animals who need homes.

Victims and survivors of human trafficking often suffer from P.T.S.D. and depression just as people who have been through wars. I believe if those survivors could be matched with animals, dogs that need homes that they too would benefit and be closer to healing.

For those of you who have a pet in your lives I know you understand my pain, and for those who have never known the special bond and undying love of a companion animal, I urge you to go adopt a pet from a shelter or a rescue for animals. I know in my heart that the love, loyalty, laughter, is worth any pain at the end of the road, I know I will endure this horrible pain I feel now, because Scooby helped me learn that I am a strong woman and I will always love him for sharing his life with me.

As I told Scooby during his last moments as I held him, he was a good dog.

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Barbara Amaya

As a survivor of human trafficking Barbara Amaya speaks and writes from her experiences as a trafficked child. She has been published in varied media like Yahoo Voices! More magazine and her story of overcoming adversity has been featured on Fox News, Channel 4, Examiner, Animal New York, Washington Times and more.

She has a book in progress, A Girl’s Guide to Survival: Life Lessons from the Street, and has written a graphic novel about human trafficking targeted for middle and high school age students, you can get updates about Barbara her books and her activities in the anti-trafficking community at her website www.barbaraamaya.com follow her on twitter barbaraamaya4 and on facebook, linkedin and google + and pinterest

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