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November 20, 2021

Service is the best Medicine

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Written by: liz kover
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Service is the best Medicine

- Liz Kover

 

 

 

While laughter is certainly a powerful remedy, I’d argue that giving of one’s time and emotional energy is virtually a cure for all that ails us.

I struggle with depression that is quite severe at times, debilitating even. And I wanted to write openly about this because I know I am only one of countless others who experience and understand this devastating type of paralysis. I firmly believe that only when I am honest about who I am, can I fully express how working with dogs and people (together) helps me cope, and that I can therefore help others. After all, the whole mission behind
Marley’s Mutts’ evolving Miracle Mutts programs are to help people become the best they can be via different avenues for working with dogs.

Through a lifetime of experience, I understand that when we spend too much time in the confines of our own minds, we can easily get caught in the downward spiral of negative self-talk . It makes sense then that the one guaranteed escape from the dis-ease of depression is to get outside oneself, and into a bigger, collective movement toward productivity, positivity, and ultimately joy. One of the ways we practice this is in our work with the Mission at Kern County.

The women in the residential program at The Rescue Mission in Bakersfield never cease to keep me in check, and bring me back to center. They all struggle with demons of their own. But through their efforts to stay sober and move forward on a daily basis, they fend off their addictions, face what they’ve previously run from, and empower themselves as productive members of society. Every Friday, when the dogs and I show up, the ladies at The Mission are smiling. They are happy to see us and thankful that we’ve come to spend time. They remind me of how blessed I am to be doing the work I set out to do in the world!

Furthermore, in our weekly activities, I can see — so vividly — our grander vision unfolding. Last week we talked about the pet food industry and how, like the human food industry, it is trending toward more health-conscious options. Then we had tons of fun getting covered in flour, making pumpkin-peanut-butter-cinnamon, and sweet potato-apple-carrot doggie cookies.

As the girls stirred and measured and rolled out dough, I could envision them all set up in our future Rescue, Rehab & Community Education Center, operating the Miracle Mutts’ “Dog is Good” Dog Bakery, filling cookie orders for local pet stores, earning profit that would feed back into the rescue. I could see the ladies…having come through the programs at The Mission, including the Miracle Mutts vocational training courses, now working jobs in a fun and successful field, giving back to their community, feeling empowered and good about themselves and their place in the world!

A few days prior to being at The Mission, Zach and I were honored also to spend time with the ladies at Magdalene Hope. This is an organization that helps women whose lives have been affected by the sex trade. In their recovery, these women live together, pray together and get back on their feet with help from one another, a higher power of their understanding…and Heaven…their four month old Chihuahua. We brought clickers and training treats — and Fred and Hooch — and went over some basic training principles. We then went for a long walk under a beautiful, late afternoon sky. To me, this is the simplest and most valuable possible use of an  fternoon. Walking, talking, connecting with one another, with the dogs, with nature, and with ourselves. We talked a lot about helping to instill confidence in Heaven, as she is very tiny and the world is a big and scary place. But what was (and is) most important to note is that to scoop the little girl up, cradle her and be her necessary protector, is to tell Heaven she is right to be afraid. Instead, by training Heaven, the ladies will speak to her  potential — as a strong, capable being. They will instill big confidence in her little self. They will provide the same loving guidance, structure and faith for Heaven that Magdalene Hope provides to them. For us, teaching dog handling skills, as well as some of the helpful principles behind a successful human-canine relationship, is a wonderful way of serving these women, and therefore doing right by our own well-being.

On yet another day of - Zach, Hooch, Fred and I visited Valley Achievement Center for Children With Autism. To see my boy Fred, who is in training to be a service dog for an eight year-old boy with autism, in his element,
doing the work he is destined to do, was incredible. And to see our boy Hooch’s natural potential as a therapy dog emerge, transcendent of the torture he experienced in his young life, brought on waves of amazement and pride. We watched these children come to life and be connected, and gain so much happiness from the touch of their hands to the dogs’ fur. In moments such as these, in work such as this, it is virtually impossible not to smile.

Service is the most authentic, most effective anti-depressant there is. To serve another is to get out of one’s own way, and gift oneself with a joy that only comes from selfless action. So, while depression is deep and real, and can tighten its grip to an overwhelming degree some days, I encourage everyone to remember that by helping or bringing joy to others, we are able to fulfill something within that even the worst depression cannot reach.

 
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