My personal journey down a lonely and difficult path began almost a decade and a half ago. During that period I had episodes of anxiety and depression that were beyond overwhelming. Numerous failed attempts to gain control of my life led me to search anywhere I could find for even a single tool to help me achieve stability. Traditional therapy, medications, and the constant barrage of differing expert and not-so-expert opinions all added to my confusion and daily turmoil.
Nothing seemed effective enough to stabilize my inner world, and I understood my salvation would have to come from something outside of myself. I had no confidence that I would find that "something," or really any purpose in life other than getting through each day.
Then one day I picked up my 8 week old golden retriever. His instantaneous affection, unconditional love, acceptance, and even his snarls (which are his way of smiling), grounded me in a way I had never experienced before. I was blessed with a new-found feeling of independence and a sense of responsibility and purpose, and most importantly, hope.
With much careful and patient training, my new dog, Earl, became my own service animal, and I took him everywhere with me including, grocery stores, restaurants, camping, hiking, the movies, airplanes, concerts, and more. We were, and are, inseparable. Earl brought smiles to just about everyone who came into contact with him, stimulated conversations for me with strangers, and helped ease the chronic anxiety that had been part of my daily existence for as long as I could remember. Earl helped reconnect me with the world and, in turn, the world with me.
Not only did Earl help me in immeasurable ways, but he gave me a purpose in life, which is to share these amazing, natural healing qualities that Earl inherently possesses with others who are struggling. Earl and I began our work visiting facilities for the elderly, where we seemed to bring about smiles and memories even for those with Alzheimers or Dementia. We later began to work with others who suffer from severe mental health disorders, helping them to increase their day-to-day functioning, as well as begin to experience the same joy in life that I felt I had lost forever. We continue working with this population, often with their therapist and treatment team involvement, and are seeing some amazing changes in those who have suffered without much relief for months or even years.
After having participated in many healing modalities along the way, I became convinced that a multifaceted approach to healing is essential for many. While I have post college credentials related to Animal Assisted Therapy, I don't have the graduate school training of a traditional therapist. Nevertheless, I have found that my tumultuous journey in life has given me an insight that can be invaluable to others where experience can prove itself to be the "best teacher". With the empathy and understanding that comes from having "walked the walk", coupled with the instinctive qualities that Earl displays by his gentle nature and love of people, I have gained the confidence and assurance that Earl and I can fulfill the mission of Go Fetch Wellness by assisting others in many ways.
Go Fetch Wellness was formed to connect individuals with a range of mental health challenges to the healing capabilities that can be found through the human-animal bond.
My hope is that others will realize the benefits of incorporating a dog, or other suitable pet, as part of their whole-person approach to mental wellness. We are committed to helping individuals understand that they have a chance to live without being defined by their illness, and to find pleasure in the presence of an animal, and where appropriate, having and caring for an animal of their own. Our primary focus is on dogs as they can bridge isolation through connection, encourage exercise, and provide a sense of purpose. Dog's live in the present and by observing them, one can remain more grounded, practice mindfulness, and experience a decrease in anxiety, irritability, and depression. Through unconditional love and affection, the human-animal bond helps to instill hope. Earl, and other canines like him, can be of great comfort to others, even in their darkest hours.
I graduated with a B.B.A in Marketing from the University of Georgia. After graduating, I worked in sales and marketing for a number of years, and while I was able to secure good positions when I was well, I would experience severe downturns that prevented me from working consistently and productively. As the years went by, I began to realize that high pressure jobs, while they may be lucrative, were not conducive to my living a healthy and balanced life. Having found a purpose in my life to help others through Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT), I received advanced training from The University of Denver's Graduate School of Social Work in AAT. The University of Denver is a leader in the field and strives to bring evidence-based practice to the those incorporating animals into their practice.. In addition to my certificate in AAT, I am a Certified Peer Support Specialist in the State of North Carolina. This designation is for individuals who use their lived experience to walk with others and guide them on their own path to recovery and wellness.
As CCO (Chief Canine Officer), Earl has been in training since he was 8 weeks old. He is a trained service animal for me as well as a therapy animal for others. He is now nearly 4 years old and with his Canine Good Citizen credentials issued through the American Kennel Club. I do not believe that a dog ever reaches the point where training is no longer needed, so we continue working together daily.
"I think dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love. For me, they are the role model for being alive."