Have you ever felt the love of a pet? Their loyalty, support, and fur-covered silliness can keep us smiling through the highs and lows; and for some of us, we end up leaning into the benefits they bring into our lives more than we trust our fellow humans to be able to provide the same. For Paul, his Emotional Support Animal of 7 years had laid the initial foundation for his stability in life.
Paul had what most people would consider a “rough life” early on; and as is a common response to high levels of toxic stress, he struggled with drug addiction for a long time. With intervention and support from family, Paul celebrated his 7th year of sobriety in 2018. At the start of his road to recovery, Paul started volunteering at a local humane society, where he met and instantly gravitated to the large, reassuring presence he felt from a Yellow Lab named Cooper. Adopting him gave Paul something to look forward to every day, which gave him the strength to overcome hardships and stick to the path of sobriety and wellness that he had set out on.
Research shows that the effects of being exposed to trauma in early life negatively affect long term health. One study revealed that individuals who experienced five or more Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs; i.e., emotional, physical, or sexual abuse; domestic violence; and household dysfunction) were 7–10 times more likely to report illicit drug use and addiction, and contributed to an earlier onset of self-reported substance abuse.
Another co-occurring symptom of ACEs is mental illness. As can be expected, the odds of study participants experiencing mental health issues in adulthood also increased with their exposure to ACEs earlier in life; something Paul faced whenever stress levels became too much to manage effectively. Even though Paul had been taking prescriptions to help with PTSD, he fell into a downward spiral when his girlfriend of several years had died in a car accident. Paul started using again to alleviate the overwhelming stress, and after multiple concerning events, his family decided to call authorities for help. Police arrived abruptly to transport Paul to a treatment facility but were unprepared for his canine companion, so Cooper was placed in an animal shelter to not be left unattended during Paul’s absence.
Upon release, Paul went to pick up his dog from the shelter but was unable to afford the cost that had accumulated during Cooper’s stay there. Each day he tried to problem solve a way to retrieve Cooper, the expense continued to increase. If Paul was unable to pay for Cooper’s release, the dog would be put up for adoption. In a state of panic, Paul called Bridges of Hope for help. “He’s my best friend,” Paul anxiously told Resource Specialist, Jessica, who was working on his case. After an intake had been completed over the phone, Jessica started searching for resources to help bring Cooper back home and re-establish a sense of comfort and security in Paul’s life.
Because this scenario wouldn’t fit the criteria for most agencies to assist financially, and any organizations that might have considered it were out of funding, Bridges of Hope staff agreed that reuniting Paul with his dog would bring back surety for Paul to remain stable and sober, raise his quality of life and support his mental health, and encourage him to again function as a positive asset to his community.
During Paul’s follow up phone call he reported not only how happy Cooper was to be home, but how grateful he was to have his friend back. Paul’s previously frantic tone had been replaced with one of calm and assurance, as he once again had something to look forward to each day.
Because of the generosity of supporters like you, Paul had somewhere to call during crisis. Thank you for helping us build bridges in the Lakes Area.