Update on Brian and Colton

Brian and Colton are really learning to work together.

From Brian’s mom after their first night and a recent dental appointment:

“Colton did excellent last night. He slept through the night without a bark or a whine. He used the Bell to go potty this morning and he helped Brian when he was anxious twice yesterday.

Good news today Brian was able to go to the dentist with Colton’s help! I have not made him his own appointment in 6 years. I have made an appointment for myself and then tried to get him to go. and then if he would not go he had to wait another 6 months to my next appointment. I just had my appointment shortly before we got Colton and Brian would not go and I decided to make an appointment just for Brian and risk it. So this was a tremendous accomplishment! I just tell Colton go get him and Colton kissed him until he could leave. Brian was saying he would not go and after a few minutes with Colton’s intervention he was able to leave. I didn’t even have to call my friend to come over. Haven’t been able to get Brian to do the halter yet but he did get the call made for the veterinarian and we have an appointment on Friday.”

We are so proud of them both!

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Learning with Purpose

Healing Companions, Inc. believes in saving lives on both ends of the leash – not just with individuals who receive Psychiatric Service Dogs, and the shelter dogs themselves, but also with the inmates who assist in training our PSDs. Healing Companions, Inc. takes great pride in the recovery efforts of those inmates who are enrolled in our training program. There, they not only learn positive reward-based dog training, but they also learn relaxation and stress reduction techniques for humans and their animals. Plus, they become certified in canine First Aid and CPR! These inmates grow their confidence in their ability to do a job, get in the habit of committing to work, and leave prison with the opportunity to have real-world job skills.

At Healing Companions, Inc., we believe in compassionate mentoring and allowing these inmates to prove themselves, reducing potential recidivism and improving their own outlook, as well. Inmates get an opportunity to embrace hope and actively participate in society. After being imprisoned, these individuals can trust themselves again, bringing their skills to work and playing a role in the world – in this case, the crucial role in the recovery of a person with mental health issues.

Here Leo* gives us his take on his experience. Leo was able to witness the powerful impact of his basic training for a client’s dog. Leo was able to empathize in a meaningful way with the client, finding similarities in her story and his own daughter’s life with Asperger syndrome.

Watch his testimonial here:

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Healing Vibes: The ripple effect of our training on inmates

Story by Lucia Martínez ~ Martin  knows by heart what it’s like to suffer from a mental illness himself. He’s experienced the challenging symptoms, and has dealt with the great stigma of living with an illness such as bipolar disorder, as well as the one that comes with being convicted of a crime. In prison, a person has to learn on his own how to cope with these exhausting issues, especially when one has had a lot of time on one’s hands, which can lead to increasing symptoms of anxiety and depression.

By being part of the dog training process, Martin has not only proven to be proficient in managing and working with the shelter dogs, but has also perceived the calming and beneficial effects of sharing with the dogs, and has become more capable in controlling those anxiety/panic attacks that are common in people with bipolar disorder. While at the same time, helping someone in need.

Listen to Martin’s touching words on his healing experience training shelter dogs for the future and overcoming the symptoms of his own mental illness while imprisoned:

We are happy to claim this a win-win-win situation, for the shelter dog, the person the dog is being trained to assist and clearly the individuals who participate in the program who value it highly and derive a ton of personal benefit. And that’s why we love what we do!

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Passion and Hope: On the way to a new path

Story by Lucia Martínez ~ Of all the times one gets to hear about personal experiences that come with being a felon, few of them have such a hopeful message. Generally we only see the negative sides, and the difficulties that come when dealing with coming back to an incredulous society and finding a new place in a changed world. But CAN someone change their life? Yes. If they want to and with hard, hard work. And that’s exactly what Chris wants now that he has found his vocation through the inmate training program offered by Healing Companions, Inc. oriented on teaching these individuals key competences for training dogs learning the basic skills needed to continue their specialized preparation.

Listen to Chris’ remarks on how he found passion while working with educating our dogs has given him a clearer and more expectant view of the future, in which he is no longer just a released felon, but a man of determination and strong career goals after an extensive time behind bars:

The Healing Companions program believes that involving recovering offenders and educating them can be a successful method of preparing an inmate to step back into his or her community with a replenished sense of self image, as well as pride through the accomplishment of getting through the training program and aspiring for a career in the field.

Our team is glad for Chris’ continued successes and hope things continue to go in a positive direction.

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A life transformed: Amanda and Lola’s story

Seems pretty clear for us dog-lovers and proud owners. Dogs love us humans in much the same ways that we do, through affection, attachment bonds and empathy. And unless you took an untamed coyote home, you’ve probably experienced all the colors of sharing a life with a canine confidante along with unquestionable life changing effects. In some cases, even lifesaving.

This next story depicts that last lifesaving part and will give you a closer look to the work we proudly do at Healing Companions Inc. where all our canines are shelter dogs and highly trained to mitigate the effects of each individuals specific symptoms.

Amanda and Lola working on trainingAmanda is a Northeast Ohio resident, recovering from PTSD under the watch of always vigilant Lola, one of the many shelter dogs in training as psychiatric service dogs at Healing Companions. Her recuperation story next to a four legged companion began during her college years when she adopted her first dog Nina while suffering from a crippling history of sexual, physical and emotional abuse. The companionship and devoted love along with Nina’s insistence for multiple daily walks provided exercise, interactions with other people and gave Amanda the motivation she needed to cope with her traumas and further pursue her recovery.

Amanda and LolaNow, Amanda continues making progress thanks to Lola’s customized training. Lola is not only educated to assist Amanda in navigating through her days by helping her maintain all of her activities of her daily routine, but also her set of skills are refined so she can wake Amanda up and distract her in case of a nightmare. Lola is also able to aid Amanda when she is entering a panic attack by nudging, pawing and leaning against her or leading her outside to leave the space she was triggered in.
Don’t miss the rest of her testimony here: Life-saving bond: Woman’s dog gives her courage to heal.

Happy spoiler alert: It’s safe to say she can live a life with less fear in the daily obstacles she faces and struggles with and knowing she has her psychiatric service dog in training with her every step of the way.

*Photography ~ Liz Adams

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