Paws with a purpose
Tori Almond | Staff Writer
Before receiving her emotional support animal Lubbock, Taylor Laseter had just one goal at the end of each day: to make it.
Before the five month old Border Collie mix came into her life, Laseter battled depression and anxiety. Homework seemed to pile up being a double major in economics and biology. Her confidence and self-esteem seemed to spiral downward with each passing week.
But this wasn’t always the case for Laseter.
When she was younger, she had that touch of childlike innocence before the world showed her pain. Laseter had to live with a cousin for a time during her adolescence years, which changed everything for her, she said.
“Sexual assault sets you off of people,” Laseter said. “I felt like I had no one there I could trust.”
Anxiety and depression stemmed from those memories for Laseter, but she continued to push on each day in hopes that the feelings and memories would disappear or at the very least, get a little better to cope with.
“Last semester, to just feel like I fit in somewhere, I went to this party,” she said. “I had gotten drunk and when I woke up there was some guy with me the next morning, which triggered a lot of those memories back into my head.”
Before Lubbock, she would scurry past the bar scenes off of Fry Street, in hopes to avoid the obnoxious drunks and large crowds.
Isolation became the blanket she tucked herself in at night with.
“I needed someone there by my side,” she said. “I was getting tired of being alone in my room at the end of each day.”
Deciding to take action, Laseter visited the website CertaPet and began the application process to get her a four-legged companion that could possibly help with the torment of depression.
“The application asks about your childhood, stress levels and whatever else,” Laseter said. “That’s where I had explained what had happened when I was younger and that I just thought this would be beneficial to me, which it has been.”
After filling out the application, it’s sent in to a psychologist who reviews it. Then, the psychologist responds back with either a housing letter and approval, or explains why this may not be a good fit for the interested person.
If approved, the housing letter allows the dog to stay with its owner, no matter what breed it is.
“It didn’t take long for me to train Lubbock either,” Laseter said. “He already knows all the basic commands like sit, stay and lie down. Being 5 months old, though, we are still working on him keeping by my side and laying down in the classrooms.”
Having been with Lubbock for only four months, Laseter has already felt a boost in her confidence and has become more social with fellow students.
Lubbock and Laseter work as a team each day, where Lubbock provides the emotional support to boost Laseter’s confidence and spirit to make each day a little better, and Laseter provides Lubbock with a home full of love.
“I got Lubbock from the North Texas Humane Society,” she said. “The moment I saw him I just kind of knew he was the one that was going to help me.”
A year before Lubbock came into Laseter’s life, UNT senior Jason Lincoln gave a home to Nikko, a German Shepard and Husky mix. Nikko would become Lincoln’s service dog.
After submitting an application and obtaining a prescription for a service animal through Veteran Affairs, Lincoln and a trainer had met up at the Fort Worth Humane Society.
“When it came time to pick the dog, there were two of them I could have picked from,” Lincoln said. “One was very passive and laid back. But then there was Nikko, who was more hyper and outgoing. I knew he would help bring me out of my shell.”
Before considering getting a service dog, Lincoln, an Air Force veteran, suffered with PTSD and overdosing on the many pills he was prescribed for different reasons.
“There was a point I was taking 13 pills a day, twice a day,” he said. “Depression, anxiety, pain medication, you name it. I wasn’t overdosing on purpose, I just was taking so many pills.”
After deciding he was able to take care of an animal, Lincoln reached out to the Train a Dog, Save a Warrior program, which helped Lincoln get in contact with local trainers to find Nikko. After a long five month training course together, Nikko and Lincoln graduated, and Nikko got right to work.
“Nikko teaches me patience and helps me have more mental control,” Lincoln said. “And other than mentally, physically he helps give me balance and stability. There are old injuries I have that makes it hard to get up stairs sometimes.”
Nikko had to learn several different things during his TADSAW course, such as obedience classes, commands such as guard and watch, public access, social skills and crowd control alongside his new owner.
But through it all, Lincoln said he wouldn’t trade Nikko for anything. He’s not only his service dog, but also his motivation and best friend.
“It took some time to think through the risks and rewards of getting a service dog,” Lincoln said. “When I finally decided I needed one, I think I made the right decision. If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t even be able to talk to anyone.”
Featured Image: Lubbock is an emotional support dog of just five months. Laseter and her friends say they have been really impressed by how quickly Lubbock learned all the training. Zoee Acosta
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