Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Another Inspirational "Tail" By Matthew Of Waggz & Whiskerz - A Rescue Dog Helps A 30 Year Old Woman Recently Diagnosed With Cancer

Jan 12 2011
The Positive Impact of Therapy Dogs: Clair’s Best Friend By Matthew Johnson of Waggz & Whiskerz

This is the story of Clair Buckner and her Jack Russell Rocky- it explains a bit about how Rocky came to live with Clair and the wonderful relationship they have formed as well as how I had the pleasure of meeting Clair. Rocky has moved seamlessly from being an abandoned dog at the animal shelter to helping Clair cope with the ups and downs of breast cancer.

Clair’s New Best Friend

Rocky is a 5-year-old Jack Russell Terrier. He started his career late by some standard in the dog therapy world but once he entered into Clair Buckner’s life, he didn't want to look back. He loves the attention, and the "public", the road trips to and from the hospital and all the yummy treats associated with his travels. He would howl and bark as the car was being loaded; for fear that he might get left at home with out Clair.

Rocky and Clair’s story began with a diagnosis. Clair (30 years old) recently finished her spring championship competition in gymnastics; the spring had gone quickly and had led her into a special career and placements. It was on a Friday night in June whilst ironing her gymnastics uniform that Clair discovered a lump. Clair recalls, “I knew I’d have to wait until Monday to see my doctor. The doctor reassured me and said that as the lump moved it was most likely just a cyst but had to refer me to the hospital as standard procedure. Two weeks later I saw my doctor at Sunnybrook.”

Clair’s doctor ordered a core biopsy, Clair had a feeling something was wrong. Clair was the last patient to be called in. Clair remembers “As soon as I entered the room I knew it was cancer as there were so many people in there. Nothing really prepares you when someone says you have cancer. I remember the room spinning and not being able to focus on anyone, just shear panic that I was given a death sentence. I managed to pull myself together to get the facts together, before being sent home with a date for treatment in two weeks time.”

During Clair’s 3rd course of outpatient treatment of Chemotherapy and Radiation (at Sunnybrook hospital) she happened to notice me walking Woofie in the main area of the hospital, we spoke briefly and I explained to her that Woofie was a therapy dog, and that on really rough visits to the hospital she is allowed to accompany me to make me feel better. I suggested any dog would cheer her up and that it doesn’t have to be a therapy dog necessarily.

Upon my suggestion Clair and her Friend Todd decided to go to the local animal shelter, this is where they discovered Rocky. Not long after Clair sent in an application; the paper work got filed and all the steps were taken, 8 days later Clair and Rocky’s journey began.

Rocky is a tiny rambunctious 5-year-old Jack Russell Terrier. Had been found outdoors and had no identification, not much was known about him except that he loved people and cookies; it had been 3 months of shelter life for Rocky until Clair came along and provided a home for the excited Jack Russell and the two quickly became a perfect match.

Clair explains that having Rocky around gives her a reason to get out of bed and go outdoors for walks. Clair’s walks have became a twice a day routine with Rocky. Each walk is approximately 20 min and very healthy for Clair and Rocky. According to Clair Rocky has also helped fight her fatigue and reduced energy associated with her treatments. “Rocky is a great motivator for building some strength and endurance”. Clair says.

“He makes me feel better!” Clair knows that there is a special bond between the pair. Clair has noticed her spirits lifting since having Rocky enter her life and her level of anxiety drops when he is around her. Clair is able to focus her energy into caring for Rocky rather than always worrying about her diagnosis. Clair explains “There is a psychological boost for me, the impact can also be very physical too. When Rocky climbs on to my lap it is like he is strengthening my soul”.

Rocky and Clair’s relationship also has positive psychological advantages. Rocky’s presence and the fact that he always wants to be with Clair brings forth a sense of uplifting cheer. Clair says “The silly dog things he does tend to make you smile and laugh. As well, when I just need to rest and relax - he cuddles next to me and that is very comforting”.

Rocky’s influence on Clair is not the only relationship reported going through the motions of recovery. The active ingredient in animal therapy is a little-understood concept called the human-animal bond. The American Veterinary Medical Association officially recognized the existence of the human-animal bond since 1982. And the AVMA states that this bond has existed for thousands of years. “Interactions with animals can provide emotional and physical health benefits for diverse human populations, including the elderly, children, physically disabled, deaf, blind, emotionally or physically ill, and the incarcerated,” AVMA policy states.

As Clair and Rocky further discover one another during Clair’s treatment for breast cancer. “Some days are better than others”, Clair says but she can always rely on the comfort of her new best friend Rocky. Clair feels that since she rescued Rocky from the shelter that Rocky is aware of that act and in return Rocky has rescued her from all the emotional distress that accompanies cancer diagnosis. Together they continue to evolve as a team and will continue to update me on their progress.

I know first hand Therapy animals have a way of providing companionship to the sick, and clearly they have the ability to assist in healing. Clair and Rocky’s story is just another example of the power of therapy dogs, whether they are official working dogs or rescues from a shelter, their love and devotion carries a sense of
peace and love that can change the course of illness for the better.

Stay tuned for Feb 1st 2011 next article on the power of therapy dogs.

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