A personal style blog aimed to entertain and enrich the lives of readers by sharing meaningful and impactful life experiences. Here, readers can find a variety of blog post topics, in addition to a tail-wagging focus on dog blogs!
Author: Sit, Stay, Blog
Welcome! In a world where time is a valuable, precious component of life, I am ever so grateful for the personal time you are taking to read about me and how I began Sit, Stay, Blog!
In 2018, I graduated with a Master's Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, and in 2016 I received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology, with a minor in Sociology. While attending my undergraduate institution, I involved myself in a plethora of unique activities which undoubtedly provided me with memorable experiences and a motivation to document and share these experiences with others. One of my most monumental experiences to date has involved being the first student to ever raise and train a service dog, Pinella, at my undergraduate institution. With that experience came both challenges and inspiring moments that I hope to share with you along this magnificent journey of Sit, Stay, & Blog. My primary goal is to connect with my readers on a personal level and create content that is meaningful and relevant to everyone’s interests.
I am forever grateful for your support of Sit, Stay, & Blog, and it is my genuine hope that you visit my blog page and enjoy the content provided throughout!
He may be little, but he is fierce! Meet Leo the Lovely Lion. The fur sibling of Miss. Maggie Mae and Beretta (to be featured soon), he will steal your heart and snatch your spot on the couch in seconds!
How I Got My Name: I was previously named; however, I didn’t fully respond to it. I am tiny but fierce and have fur like a lion’s mane. My mom thought Leo was perfect for me. I perked up and responded to her right away and knew I had a new “furever” home.
Nicknames: Leo Magnitio (I’m like a magnet to my mom)
Age: 1 year young
Adoption Date: October 20, 2020
Adoption Story: I was in need of a new home as my previous owners recognized that they could not provide me with adequate care or safety. I was sent to my new family’s neighbor’s home for temporary placement, but upon my arrival there, my current mom couldn’t help but fall in love with my charm! She snuggled me close and carried me home to surprise my dad. He was very surprised and quite confused. He asked who I was and who I belonged to. What a silly question when I already knew I belonged with them and my new sister, Maggie Mae! I jumped on his lap as my mom explained, and he agreed that I would stay with them furever!
Best Tricks: I am really good at making goofy facial expressions and befriending every dog I meet!
Collar Color I Sport Best: Blue with green sea turtles!
My Fur Family: I live with my big sister, Maggie Mae, who is an Australian Shepherd and my little sister, Beretta, who is a Siberian Husky.
Favorite Fur Friends: My favorite fur friends include my siblings and, quite honestly, any dogs I meet!
Favorite Activities: I enjoy cuddling, running and playing in the yard, going for walks, and playing with all the squeaky toys!
Favorite Toys: I love my squeaky turtle and hedgehog toys!
Favorite Treats/Food: Apple Bacon flavored Fruitables Soft and Chewy dog treats are my favorite! Yum!
Favorite Memories with Leo: Bringing Leo home and being able to pick him up every evening to get ready for snuggles under the covers before bed are our most memorable experiences!
Life Lessons Learned from Leo:
All things are possible, no matter your size.
Play like a child, then sleep like a king.
Second chances are possible, and love finds you when you’re least expecting it!
“It’s hard not to immediately fall in love with a dog who has a good sense of humor!”
Anyone who knows me well knows that it is my goal to author child and adult literature. I’ve dreamt of writing fiction and nonfiction stories from the perspective of my own dogs to capture the essence of our human-animal bond. My experiences in the assistance dogs community, however, ignited a reluctance to utilizing such an anthropomorphic approach in my writing. To mediate this inner conflict and develop inspiration, I turned to existing literature that has been well-esteemed by its readers to date. The work of W. Bruce Cameron, a bestselling author, perfectly exemplifies how to write from the dog’s point of view, embrace creativity, and respect the unique differences between humans and non-human animals.
“There are no bad dogs, Bobby, just bad people. They just need love.”
(Cameron, 2010, p. 34)
“A Dog’s Purpose” is the first in a series of tail-wagging good reads written by Cameron. Cameron strategically utilizes anthropomorphism to offer insight into the science behind dogs (i.e., their keen sense of smell, olfactory detection of hormonal changes in humans, etc.). Through a series of stories, readers become attuned to issues, such as shelter overcrowding and pet loss, and an open-minded audience can expect to think creatively about what might happen after their pet crosses the rainbow bridge.
Some might argue that “A Dog’s Purpose” is a hope-instilling read that offers insight into the life purposes of ourselves and our companion animals. Through the lived experiences of the dog, it becomes readily apparent that the purpose of the human-animal bond is to promote protection, companionship, safety, security, comfort, and beyond. Anyone with a keen eye for philosophy will quickly recognize that “A Dog’s Purpose” invites questions about one’s own purpose. For example, do we each have just one purpose? Does our purpose change as we navigate life? How do we discover our purpose?
“This was, I decided, my purpose as a dog, to comfort the boy whenever he needed me.”
(Cameron, 2010, p. 71)
As painted by Cameron, having and finding purpose isn’t just a unique human experience, it’s commonplace for our companion animals as well.
Think back to Spring 2017. Do you recall what you might have been doing? Perhaps, you were finishing school, getting married, adopting a pet, having your first child, or merely living your best life!
2017 marked the beginning of a very exciting venture for me. While enrolled in a master’s-level crisis intervention course, I was challenged to complete a thorough review of the literature to identify research gaps that could help facilitate counseling practices. Throughout my experiences in formal education, I have always possessed a unique interest in studying and researching the human-animal bond. I attribute much of this interest to my undergraduate internship and subsequent volunteer experiences at Susquehanna Service Dogs. These experiences, coupled with my interest in the human-animal bond, aided in the development of a research project that explored courthouse facility dogs as a crisis intervention strategy for survivors of intimate partner violence.
Findings from the Literature Review: Occurring at alarmingly high rates, individuals subject to intimate partner violence can experience an initial crisis upon victimization and a secondary crisis while offering testimony in court. Animal-assisted interventions, such as the incorporation of courthouse facility dogs during victim testimony, have gained traction as a viable approach to mitigating symptoms of anxiety, distress, fear, etc. Under guidelines for best practice, courthouse facility dogs are those that have received intensive training through accredited service dog organizations. Their primary function is to alleviate distress and promote a sense of calm among individuals needing to testify in court. In 2017, literature related to courthouse facility dogs demonstrated that they have been primarily incorporated as a crisis mitigation strategy for youth who have endured abuse. My research thereby identified a gap, wherein the use and benefits/drawbacks of this animal-assisted crisis intervention strategy for adult survivors of intimate partner violence were unknown (Kelly, 2020).
As I progressed through this assignment, my professor encouraged students, like myself, to consider publication and/or formal presentation of their work. With a prideful finished product, I entertained these suggestions and submitted applications to three conferences to present on the topic of courthouse facility dogs as a crisis intervention strategy for survivors of intimate partner violence. Overwhelming acceptance from all three conference committees afforded me with the opportunities to present this research at the 2018 New Jersey Counseling Association Conference, 8th Annual Chi Sigma Iota Pennsylvania Statewide Conference, as well as the American Counseling Association 2018 Conference and Expo. These experiences undoubtedly developed the foundation for my career, broadened my professional interests, and boosted my confidence.
Fast forward to 2019. Successful completion and presentation of my work thus far fostered a sense of believability that it was indeed publishable material. With the assistance of strict accountability and goal-driven behaviors, I committed to submitting my paper to the Journal of Creativity in Mental Health in October 2019. After submission, I distinctly recall having fleeting moments of self-doubt as I anticipated feedback from the first review; however I made a diligent effort to refocus my attention toward opportunity and possibility as opposed to denial and despair. Undoubtedly, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to delays in peer reviewing, and it was not until April 2020 when I finally received confirmation that, with edits, my paper would be accepted into the scholarly journal! Peer reviewing is an evaluative process that ultimately ensures the material is quality and credible, and with a few back-and-forth interactions, my paper was officially accepted in September 2020. I proudly accepted each constructive comment, made the necessary edits, and navigated my way through completing copyright documents. Exactly one year after submitting my manuscript with eyes set on a hopeful future, it was accepted. With that, I am very happy and proud to announce that I am officially a published author as of October 2020!
Although I purposefully kept this endeavor very private, I want to express my heartfelt thanks to those who directly and indirectly supported me in attaining this goal:
Alex – For literally everything…reading my drafts, processing my frustrations, and celebrating the victories!
Dr. Shirley – Thank you for creating this assignment, nudging me outside of my comfort zone, believing in my ability to succeed, and offering never-ending encouragement and mentorship!
Kory – Without your accountability, I might still be procrastinating on this goal!
Pam – Thank you for taking me under your wing at Susquehanna Service Dogs, believing in my goals, and teaching me all about the assistance dogs community!
Pinella – For always being a source of inspiration, your patience as I put in long hours at the computer, and the puppy snuggles you offer after a hard day’s work!
If you’re interested in reading or learning more, I’ve included a link to the published paper here. If you have questions or would like to read the full version of the paper, please feel free to contact me through my linked social media outlets or the Sit, Stay, Blog contact page!
The full paper citation is also referenced here: Kelly, T. (2020). Courthouse facility dogs: An intervention for survivors of intimate partner violence. Journal of Creativity in Mental Health. https://doi.org/10.1080/15401383.2020.1828214
Hey podcast listeners: Listen to Neurolawgical’s recent podcast episode about this publication here.
It’s fair to say that 2020 has been a year filled with trials and tribulations for all. We have been subject to drastic changes, sacrifices, and losses. I firmly believe that our greatest growth stems from our deepest struggles, and I cannot deny that I’ve experienced my own sense of struggle throughout this year. I have had highs and lows in my own sense of mental wellness, felt a loss of meaning in my work, and have had to trust the process of painfully establishing boundaries in my relationships.
While all of this is worthwhile of self-reflection, it is of the utmost importance to me that I explore and seek out my areas of success and triumph throughout this year. Thus, I reflect on 2020 by not fixating on the tribulations and instead acknowledging their existence, honoring the thoughts and feelings that arise, and then intentionally shifting my focus toward areas of personal growth and gratitude. I challenge anyone reading this to do the same…to dig deep and reflect month-by-month, week-by-week, or day-by-day to capture areas of gratitude.
February: Read Outside the Lines and The Gifts of Imperfection, Pinella and I began volunteering with the Embark therapy dog program, I applied to Wilmington University for doctoral studies, & Alex and I attended a local fire and ice festival with family
March: ReadScent of the Missing and The Possibility Dogs, Began working from home, Jigsaw puzzles became a newfound hobby, Received my first (and last) haircut of 2020, Interviewed for doctoral candidacy at Wilmington University, & Was invited to interview for doctoral studies at Shippensburg University
April: Read An Invisible Thread, Dear John, Life After Suicide, and Craig and Fred, Gratefully continued working from home, Was accepted into Wilmington University to earn a Doctorate in Prevention Science, & Implemented a new exercise regimen
May: Read Me Before You, Celebrated my birthday quarantine-style, Pinella continued serving as a “pawsome” coworker in my work-from-home venture, Received a birthday self-care package from my wonderful sister, Gained a beautiful new niece, Fresh veggies and new flowers were planted in the garden, & I started a 350-Mile Bike Across PA challenge
June: Read The Rescue, One Thousand Gifts, The Gift of Therapy, and Dog Medicine, Gained peace and clarity in continuing to work from home, Exercised 1 to 2 times daily to maintain a sense of mental wellness, & Finished a running challenge for a local victim services organization
July: Read Murder and Misunderstanding, Behind Closed Doors, Born to Shine, and Tuesday’s Promise, Started a Disaster Mental Health Counseling certificate program, Exercised at an all-time high for a healthy escape, Fresh veggies started sprouting in the garden, Completed a walking challenge for a local nonprofit organization, & I won a giveaway through KCD Designs
August: Read The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog and After You, Had to forego our annual trip to Myrtle Beach but replaced it with a more COVID-safe trip to a secluded bay in Maryland, Was able to vacation with Pinella and see her natural enjoyment of the beach unfold, Took time away from work and gained clarity into my need to prioritize myself and establish boundaries in all spheres of my life, Completed the 350-Mile Bike Across PA challenge, Completed course #2 in my Animal-Assisted Psychotherapy Certification course, & Started my journey as a doctorate student
September: Read Report from Ground Zero, Began cohosting the Neurolawgical Podcast, Was able to bake a birthday cake for my precious niece, Alex and I celebrated our six-year anniversary, Pinella celebrated her fifth birthday, Completing schoolwork provided me with increased clarity into my professional goals and aspirations, Submitted final edits for a paper I was authoring, & A praying mantis waiting outside my door eased my anxiety-riddled body as I embarked on a day of working in-person
October: I became a published author (more about that to come…), Completed a running challenge for my alma matter, Explored the fall foliage with Pinella and Alex, Accessed my passion for photography, My mums bloomed in the garden and we purchased pumpkins from a local farm stand, A thoughtful neighbor left beautiful flowers at our doorstep, & I purchased a bookshelf to complete our reading room
November: Read The Weathering of Sea Glass, Mustered the courage to apply and interview for my dream opportunity, Assisted in a major fundraising event for Susquehanna Service Dogs where we raised $10,001, Christmas cactus bloomed for the first time in four years, Virtually watched my brother get sworn into the military (Congrats, B!), & I participated in at-home voting
December: Read Man’s Search for Meaning, Completed my Goodreads 2020 Reading Challenge (25/20 books), Pinella had a satisfactory wellness visit and was blessed with another year of good health, Completed the first semester of my doctorate studies, Thankfully resumed working from home, A rare December snowstorm allowed me to get my much sought after holiday photos of Pinella in the snow, I prioritized supporting small businesses, & I was eager for the holidays for the first time in many, many years
As is typical for me, I did not initiate 2020 by setting new year’s resolutions. I instead focused on establishing daily intentions for myself — intentions to maintain balance in my life, live healthier, strive for peace, and prioritize self-care. Amid the throes of 2020, I quickly adapted my intentions to ensure that I created meaning and opportunity from each hardship I endured. For me, there’s a simple prescription for navigating life’s challenges, namely, finding opportunities. Viewing life through a lens of opportunity is hope-instilling and was undoubtedly what contributed to each area of reflection above.
I share this reflection not to boast or brag but to instead model how there is always something worthy of being grateful for…yes, even in a year like 2020. As you see, gratitude can be found in the biggest of life’s events, like pursuing your dream to achieve a doctorate degree, as well as the smallest moments, such as being greeted out the door by a praying mantis. As we embark on a new year together, I challenge you to set the intention to prioritize gratitude. Understand that, while turning the page on a calendar to now read 2021 doesn’t change the world around us, it can change our perceptions. I intend to see the good, embrace life, and find opportunity in everything I do. What are your intentions?
Tuesday’s Promise is a tail-wagging sequel and continuation from Luis Carlos Montalvan’s first book, Until Tuesday
Having served two tours in Iraq, Montalvan begins by describing his post-wartime experiences, including what he calls the “invisible wounds of war.” These “invisible wounds” devastatingly include the alarmingly high suicide rate among veterans. To be more specific, Montalvan outlines that veterans die by suicide at a rate of 22 per day, 1 every 65 minutes, and 8,000 each year. Montalvan intimately invites readers into his narrative by discussing his reintegration into civilian life as well as detailing his experiences with posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideations. In addition to his invisible wounds, the author also discusses his experiences with chronic physical pain and the life-altering decisions he has had to make with respect to his physical condition.
He transitions by educating readers about the historical context of the human-canine relationship. For example, it is suggested that dogs assisted hunter-gatherers and evolved alongside their human counterparts by detecting threats, tracking food sources through their keen sense of smell, herding livestock, enhancing the agriculture industry, and providing border protection. More recently, dogs have been introduced into the medical scene by offering support and assistance to individuals with disabilities including, but not limited to, blindness, psychiatric disorders, seizure response, etc. For Montalvan, it is his service dog, Tuesday, who assists him in mitigating his disabilities, fostering a sense of independence, and ultimately enhancing his quality of life.
Through his narrative, readers gain insight into the many challenges that individuals with service dogs experience, specifically related to their public access rights. Montalvan shares a unique experience he had with Tuesday upon attempting to attend an appointment at the VA, wherein he was denied access, treated unjustly, and “required” to provide a service dog identification badge for Tuesday. In the words of Montalvan, this experience “felt infuriating, too stupid for words.” It was experiences, such as this, that motivated Montalvan to serve as an advocate to educate others about the work of service dogs and the public access rights of their partners.
With Tuesday by his side, Montalvan traveled nationwide as a public speaker, advocate, and educator. It was his mission to utilize his relationship with Tuesday as a means to help others feel respected, connected, loved, and embraced — characteristics that humans and animals alike both want and need!
Montalvan died by suicide in 2016 and was reunited in Heaven by his best pal, Tuesday, in 2019. In memoriam of two national heroes, thank you for your service. Thank you, Tuesday, for your gift of life that you provided to your partner in the years leading to his death.
“Dog Medicine,” written by Julie Barton, is a phenomenal read that offers insight into the emotional support and companionship offered by our best fur friends. Throughout the book, Barton details her experiences with mental illness and utilizes a heartfelt approach to depict how her best fur friend, Bunker, aides in alleviating her debilitating symptoms.
“Dog Medicine” is a relatable read for those with and without mental illness. The author emphasizes the supportive role of Bunker in adding structure, routine, and purpose in her days. With Bunker, Barton is able to return to her normal activities, including socializing, working, caring for herself, and living independently. In her book, Barton states, “I want to get out of bed.” Readers can interpret from this statement exactly how dogs can serve as a natural antidepressant. Through the development of their bond, it is observed that Bunker serves as a source of safety, provides comfort and companionship, promotes mindfulness, and encourages laughter. “Dog Medicine” exemplifies what we, as a social species, need but are often neglected. The author highlights how she has become more attuned to her own emotional experiences by observing and attending to Bunker’s emotional needs. Through immersing oneself in “Dog Medicine,” readers begin to understand exactly how Bunker shaped Barton’s mental health recovery by teaching her how to embrace, welcome, experience, and ultimately accept pleasant and unpleasant emotions. Barton succeeds in creating a powerful anecdote about the healing effects of animals and the human-canine bond. “Dog Medicine” is a Doggone Good Read that is sure not to disappoint!
“Craig & Fred,” written by Craig Grossi, is a doggone good read that is certain to raise the question “Who rescued who?” A heartwarming story, “Craig and Fred” details the unique circumstances that brought man and dog together as one. Grossi utilizes an easy-to-read narrative to depict his inter and intranational journeys alongside his best four-legged pal, Fred.
Told through the eyes of an eight-year Veteran of the United States Marine Corps, readers can expect to gain insight into Grossi’s wartime experiences, including the often difficult transition to civilian life. In sharing his story, the author outlines how Fred served as a social lubricant, allowing for more seamless discussion of difficult war stories. Throughout their experiences together, Fred faithfully served (and continues to serve) as a constant source of companionship, comfort, and guidance, and their relationship together truly embodies the human-canine bond. Through this inspiring story, readers gain clarity into why dogs really are man’s best friend. Although the question remains of “Who saved who?,” it is clear that both Craig and Fred played important roles in one another’s journeys toward healing and recovery!
Interested in following along on the many journeys of Craig and Fred? Follow them on social media!
“Career Change” is a term used in the working dog world to reference when a dog has ultimately chosen a different career path. For instance, some service dogs in training find that they are better suited for explosives detection, therapy work, or even the pet life.
If you’ve followed along on Pinella’s journey thus far, you already know that, just shy of her first birthday, she chose to pursue the pet life. It was her choice. She told us through her behaviors and temperament that she preferred to live a calming, playful, and relaxing pet life. Although it was heartbreaking for her to be discharged from service work, I now have the clarity to recognize that this was a necessary component of her journey.
Following her release from Susquehanna Service Dogs, our training efforts naturally decreased. Through this experience, however, I became attuned to a key quality of Pinella — She loves to work! Pinella demonstrated excitement at the sight of her clicker and treats. She seemed to really enjoy the mental stimulation she gained from practicing her cues in pet-friendly stores and getting treated for loose leash leisure walks. Her companionship was second to none and something I truly wished more people had an opportunity to experience. I observed these traits for a year or so and did my very best to give her a healthy combination of “pet life” and “working life/training.”
Pet Therapy at a Glance
Pet Therapy is an animal-assisted intervention that I’ve always had a keen interest in. Much of this interest derived from my own experiences with the healing power of the human-animal bond. If you’ve ever had a pet, you, too, have likely experienced the therapeutic role that interacting with an animal can have. While pet therapy can be as informal as interacting with your pet, it also involves more formal, structured interactions.
“Animal-assisted interventions are goal oriented and structured interventions that intentionally incorporate animals in health, education and human service for the purpose of therapeutic gains and improved health and wellness.”
(Pet Partners, 2020)
Pet Partners (2020) acknowledges pet therapy as an animal-assisted intervention aimed at providing comfort and healing to individuals in a variety of settings. Examples include, but are not limited to, hospitals, advocacy centers, schools/universities, assisted-living facilities, mental health facilities, as well as libraries. Pet therapy affords people with an opportunity to focus on the animal/animal’s handler as opposed to the ongoing stressors that might be occurring in their life. This might take the form of petting the animal and talking to the animal’s handler, for example. It has also been suggested that therapy dogs can aide in improving children’s literacy skills by having them read to the nonjudgmental dog. Lastly, therapy dogs are often involved in crisis response and have served on the frontlines during national crises, such as 9/11, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting, and even the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Rewind: October 2019
Reflecting back on Pinella’s desire to live the pet life, coupled with her innate love for working, I anticipated that pet therapy would be a suitable fit for her. It was also encouraging to know that Pinella’s sister, Syrah, had already made the transition from service-dog-in-training to therapy dog. In October 2019, I reached out to Syrah’s handler and asked for mentorship and guidance through navigating the pet therapy world. Together, we did several pet therapy trial visits at a local nursing home. Much of our experience at the nursing home involved allowing residents to pet Pinella while simultaneously reminiscing with them about pets they’ve owned throughout their lifetime. It was a unique and memorable experience to watch Pinella work side-by-side with her sister to learn how to be a comforting companion and eager therapy dog.
Following these trial visits, it was important to have her undergo formal evaluation and observation to ensure that she met the necessary qualifications to be a therapy dog (i.e., a calm temperament, obedience skills, behavioral training). We pursued certification through Alliance of Therapy Dogs, which involved an initial oral examination as well as three tests/observations of Pinella. She demonstrated excellence throughout these observations and gained official certification as a therapy dog in January 2020! In addition to accruing a certification, she was also accepted into a local airport therapy dog program! Here, she visits with nervous passengers awaiting their flights and works to calm their anxieties merely with her presence.
We have had to put a pause on therapy visits due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic; however, we are eager to resume once it is deemed safe to do so! This new career as a therapy dog appears to satisfy Pinella’s desires to not only be a pet, but also work. It seemed appropriate to announce Pinella’s newly-granted certification as a therapy dog today in honor of National Therapy Animal Day!
Pet therapy is a fulfilling volunteer experience that I recommend to anyone who feels their pet might be a suitable match for therapy work. I’ve included resources below from well-known, reputable therapy animal organizations. If you’re interested in learning more about the handler and animal qualifications necessary to pursue pet therapy, these are great resources to start with. Just as Syrah’s handler did for me, I am happy to answer any questions you may have and help guide you through the process if/when you ever feel like this might be an appropriate endeavor for you and your furry companion!
“Scent of the Missing” and “The Possibility Dogs,” both written by Susannah Charleson, provide readers with an inside look into the world of working dogs. In “Scent of the Missing,” Charleson discusses the emotional and logistical components of her work alongside canine search and rescue teams. She shares her passion for canine search and rescue (SAR) with readers by describing her own experiences becoming a SAR team with her dog, Puzzle. Here, readers learn about the work ethic, flexibility, and emotional and physical strength necessary to execute SAR fieldwork. This is an inspiring read that will leave you wanting to offer thanks and gratitude to the humans and animals who devote their time and energy toward uniting loved ones near and far!
The focus of “The Possibility Dogs” is largely on the role of psychiatric service dogs in mitigating mental illness symptoms and diagnoses. In addition, Charleson provides insight into the process of selecting, testing, and placing shelter dogs to become working service dogs. As with many of the “Doggone Good Reads” found on Sit, Stay, Blog, “The Possibility Dogs” equates the human-animal bond as an affinity toward one another. Charleson provides fresh perspectives into what it means to experience love and loss within the context of the human-animal bond, including a dog’s ability to recognize grief in their human counterparts. Readers can also expect to be introduced to and educated on the concept of Black Dog Syndrome and the impact this has on shelter and adoptable dogs. Charleson has taken her writing one step further through the foundation of her nonprofit organization, Possibility Dogs, Inc., which seeks to train appropriate shelter dogs for work as service dogs, emotional support dogs, and therapy dogs. “The Possibility Dogs” is a tail-wagging good read based on raw personal experience that is nothing short of remarkable and memorable!
When you hear the word “doctor,” what is it that you think of? Who do you envision?
I anticipate that many of you, amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, imagine the medical doctor who is wearing the lab coat and personal protective equipment and running frantically from patient to patient in an attempt to combat this ruthless virus. Perhaps, you picture the pharmacist overseeing the life-saving medication you are about to receive. Maybe you’re even thinking about the veterinarian who provides comfort and critical care to your furry best friend. The limitations established in response to this pandemic, coupled with minimal use of healthy coping strategies, might contribute to poor mental health outcomes. Understanding this, you might even be envisioning the psychiatrists or psychologists who are working on the frontline to aide in mitigating mental health symptomology. If you are a college student, it might be commonplace for you to envision your professors who possess doctorate degrees.
You see, doctors come in many different forms and possess a variety of different titles, namely, M.D. (Doctor of Medicine), D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine), Pharm.D. (Doctor of Pharmacy), Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy), Psy.D. (Doctor of Psychology), Ed.D. (Doctor of Education), DVM (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine), DSocSci (Doctor of Social Science), etc. Each of the respective individuals play an integral part in our society. On the path toward attaining these advanced degrees, each doctoral candidate engages in remarkable research discoveries, meaningful self-discovery and exploration, and altruistic behaviors. Through education, training, and experience, they become equipped to critically analyze and develop solutions for complex phenomena. The goal for all of these individuals, however, is ultimately the same — to contribute to the enhancement of society.
So why does all this matter? Right now, there are thousands of doctoral candidates (and doctors, of course) working behind the scenes to research innovative strategies to combat issues, such as cancer, interpersonal violence, mental and physical illnesses, animal abuse, suicide, incarceration rates, oppression, and the list goes on…and on. These aspiring doctors often have to sacrifice important elements of their personal lives, including outings with friends and family, “normal” routines, leisure time, etc. When working in helping professions, in particular, the concept of self-care becomes eternally ingrained in you. Thus, opportunities for emotional and physical care are crucial and necessary components of your every day life. Often, for students, this involves balancing the demands of their personal, professional, and academic lives. In doing so, it is important to employ skills to help you establish boundaries, ask for support and assistance when needed, and ameliorate feelings of guilt and shame when it is truly in your best interest to say “no” to that social gathering. It is important to schedule opportunities for fun and play amidst the ongoing pressure of academic and work demands. If you enjoy reading, schedule time to read. If sitting in silence is comforting for you, give yourself that silent opportunity. If you are energized by creativity, don’t forget to integrate writing, drawing, coloring, and crafting into your self-care routine. If you enjoy cuddling with your dog (who doesn’t?), by all means, please cuddle with your dog!
If you have read up until this point, I wholeheartedly thank you. I thank you for your receptivity and willingness to open up your worldview about what it is like to be a student. Most importantly, I thank you for playing a crucial supportive role in my first steps toward becoming a doctor. By way of confession, I haven’t yet been entirely forthcoming to you, my reader, in this post. Truth be told, in just a few short years, I will officially possess the title of “Doctor.” No, I won’t be able to fix your broken bone or write you a prescription for your medication. Instead, my focus will be on developing preventative approaches to some of the aforementioned complex issues that face our nation’s society. Very recently, I was granted acceptance into a Doctor of Social Science in Prevention Science program. This degree will equip me to examine issues from a preventative lens as opposed to focusing solely on treatment approaches. For example, it will be my role as a social and preventative scientist to explore the underlying causes of animal abuse in an attempt to reduce its occurrence. Another crucial role of an individual possessing a Doctorate in Prevention Science is examining risk and protective factors for issues, such as suicidality. It is my professional goal to incorporate my knowledge of and passion for animals into my studies by formally examining the impact of pets on mitigating symptoms of mental illness, preventing decompensation, and promoting mental health and wellness.
This is undoubtedly an exciting opportunity for which I am eternally grateful to have been afforded. This post is ultimately an open letter to myself — my future self as a doctor. It is intended to serve as an ongoing reminder about why I am seeking an advanced doctorate degree as well as how to maintain balance between my personal, professional, and academic lives. It is a reminder to myself to utilize support and continue to ask for help, when needed.
There are many supportive individuals in my life who deserve a surplus of thank-yous! It is of particular importance, however, to extend my gratitude to the individuals who devoted their time and energy to writing a recommendation for me to pursue this degree. To protect their privacy, I will not share their names but instead highlight my relationship with them. So thank you to my wonderful mentor and graduate school professor, thank you to the director of my favorite nonprofit organization, and thank you to my clinical supervisor who offers relentless emotional and professional support!
I thank you for reading along, and I hope you will join me in supporting all of our doctors, regardless of their title, as we continue to navigate challenging circumstances in our society.