To the Underdogs… Who are the Real Heroes
fourth year akshaya shan
There was once a time where I pictured my life as being fairly normal. I came from a put-together family, I went to a good school, and had a great group of friends. However, during my freshman year of college, I started to feel myself deteriorating. I began to question the validity of my existence. Everything seemed to set me off. I started emotionally isolating myself from my family. If I wasn’t talking to my friends, who had all gone off to different cities for school, I believed they were ignoring me or altogether abandoning me. I would often come up to UGA, before I transferred here my sophomore year, to visit my friends (probably for the reason of making sure they don’t forget I exist). During my visits, I noticed training guide dogs was a huge thing here. It was the utilization of the dogs’ skills that amazed me.
These amazing animals were able to help those with physical needs such as blindness and deafness and mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. I was in a place where I didn’t really want to admit my own internal battles, and definitely never pictured myself with a dog or caring for a dog because I could barely take care of myself.
So, when life felt like I was constantly being hit in the head with a wet sock, my best friend suggested getting a dog. First off, I used to be terrified of dogs or any animal for that sake and second, I thought the dog would be a burden. I would be transferring to UGA soon, and I just wanted to focus on mentally preparing myself for that. However, my friend insisted (and I will be forever grateful). We went to a pet store, we looked around, and my eyes fell on the cutest papillon known to mankind. In the blink of an eye, I was sitting in my living room with an eleven-week puppy with no clue what do much to my parents’ dismay.
Before I even realized, Belle, my papillon, was already making a difference in my life. She had a way about her, realizing certain cues and was at my aid within seconds. When I endure a panic attack, my body curls up in a protective state. Sensing my change in behavior, Belle would immediately come and press her body against mine. The warmth calms my nerves and settles my racing heart. Mental health is something that is too easily overlooked. We are just regular people with dreams and ambitions and these dogs help us face the world outside of the ones in our heads. So, take the time to appreciate the trainers and owners of these wonderful beings that have provided us with nothing but love and nurture in this month of service dog appreciation.