By: Lydia Wood, Victim Advocate and Trauma Therapy Dog Handler
It was not my intent upon adopting Echo that he become a therapy dog, but as I grew to know him more it felt like something he needed to do. The healing power of dogs, I think, has many levels. The foundation being that dogs just are. They’re with you in the moment, no matter how uncomfortable. You don’t have to question their motives or if they really love you. You don’t have to wonder if what they’re doing is genuine or not. They don’t get caught up in their own thoughts, opinions, or judgements. They’re pure, and with the struggle of waking up and living in a world with people who may not be exactly how they seem, it’s refreshing to be around a dog who just is.
A therapy dog’s job is to provide comfort where they go. Their very presence is enough to help most people feel more relaxed and taken care of. Echo, however, adds a bit of a deeper level than many therapy dogs I’ve encountered. Soon after I adopted Echo, I realized his whining didn’t coincide with situations that made him anxious, but with when the people around him felt bad. And not only did he mirror one’s emotions, he sought to comfort the people whose energy he was feeding off of. It was with this realization that I decided to name him “Echo,” on account of him echoing the energy of the people around him.
Having trained dogs for several years, I knew the simple fact that he reacted to changes in emotions wasn’t completely uncommon. What stuck out to me about Echo was that he knew how you felt, felt it with you, and tried to make you feel better. He didn’t just soak up your emotions, he empathized with them. That caring, and empathy isn’t something that can be trained into a dog.
As a victim is navigating the heart breaking and traumatic dynamic of an abusive relationship, or dealing with the aftermath of sexual assault, Echo’s tenderness and genuine presence can add a peace and clarity of mind that may have been otherwise impossible in the complicated world of human interaction. He’ll be there with the victims we advocate for, through the good and the bad, and hopes for nothing in return.
About this blog
This blog is about our domestic and sexual violence crisis center, Beacon of Hope. We hope you find it full of helpful information, motivation, creativity, serious facts and positivity. We hope that it will help you know what is happening in our center, in our community and with our events. We hope you follow our blog in support of our organization and our mission.