Bubba’s Place in the World

I am socially inept.  I haven’t the first idea how to make small talk.  I hate groups of people, and being in crowds can cause me to panic.  Shopping is torturous for me. I would rather jab hot needles in my eyes than to to a concert or other event where there are a lot of people.  If I didn’t have to make a living I would be happy to never leave my home again.

Only others who have suffered from anxiety disorders can understand how debilitating this disorder can be.  Add in severe ADHD and depression, and you’ve got someone with a whole host of social issues. My entire life I have felt odd and different.  I knew I wasn’t the same as other kids and they made sure to let me know I was abnormal.

There is a loneliness and a sadness to having a brain dysfunction.  You are always aware of it.  You are always hyper-sensitive to being perceived as “weird” or “different” and that awareness actually makes the issue more pervasive.  My behavior has often been considered rude, when in actuality I am just beyond my ability to cope.

For most of my life I just tried to suck it up and deal with it.  I wish I had a penny for every time someone told me to calm down, slow down, settle down.  Telling me didn’t help me get control of myself.  If anything, it made things worse.  Medications can help, but they can’t fix things.  As an adult I finally accepted that a social life was never going to be easy or maybe even possible for me.  I know my husband has spent years frustrated by my reluctance to do anything that requires me to be outside of my comfort zone: home and work.  Bless his heart for hanging in there with me for the past 40 years.

Then along came my little brown dog, Ray the Vicktory Dog.  He clicked in place against my soul and suddenly I was able to talk to people.  I could go places which would make me stress out before.  I had someone else to concentrate on.  When Ray flew with me on an airplane, the trip was literally smooth sailing.  In the past I would obsess about security, getting to my gate in time, checking my bags, my seatmates, where the bathroom was on the plane, and everything else you can think of.  Every decision was fraught with danger.  Ray changed all that for me just by commanding my attention and placing himself between me and the world.

When he died I was lost.  Not only was I missing a family member I loved dearly, I was missing a support system that allowed me to function on the same level as “normal” people.   I started seeing a counselor to try and get past his loss and she pointed out something that should have been obvious: Ray had instinctively become my service dog.  He did exactly what he needed to do to increase my comfort level in public.

It was my counselor’s suggestion that I find and train another dog in the same skills.  She wrote me a “prescription” for a service dog and I started looking for the one who would be able to partner with me against the world.  I knew I wanted a larger dog, who could keep jostling crowds at bay.  It had to be a male dog, so it wouldn’t cause friction with our selective female dog Turtle.  I was looking for a dog who wanted to please, who was smart enough to learn quickly and who was good with animals and with people.  And finally, I wanted a pit bull terrier like dog, in honor of Ray.

My friend and fellow Vicktory adopter Rachel had been volunteering and fundraising for ColoRADogs out of Ft. Collins. So I reached out to them with my list of specific needs.  Nancy got back to me within minutes to tell me about a new dog they had just accepted named Bubba G.  It didn’t take long to determine that Bubba was exactly what I was looking for.  He came home to live with us just a month after we lost Ray.

The first week he was with us I had him evaluated by our Canines with Careers program here at the sanctuary.  If he passed his screening he would qualify for a grant to fund his training.  Although he was undisciplined and rowdy, it was clear he had the heart of a lion and the intelligence needed to become a support for my daily life. He was accepted into the program on the spot. That week Bubba began training to learn the skills he needed and he has continued with the specialized service dog trainer every week since.

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Bubba when he was still considered “in-training”

At first when we were working in public I would be evasive and would mumble something about training to become a therapy dog.  It was hard for me to admit to anyone that I needed a service dog.  I was embarrassed by the situation. I didn’t know how I could explain my need in a way that made sense to people.  In ways, I felt like a fraud. But I finally realized I needed to move past that attitude.  What I have learned and am experiencing could help others have the courage to admit they needed help.   This article is my ultimate “coming out” opportunity.

In the past year Bubba has gone from a hyperactive, mouthy juvenile to a dog who has learned to be supportive and protective in public.  At home he is a goofus who specializes in zoomies which bowl over his sister and in selective deafness when his name is called.  But once he has his vest on he becomes a vital support system for me. He has learned to accompany me into stores and restaurants.  He has shown the ability to tune out people and crowds.  When I am standing still, he positions himself in front of me, and leans against my legs, keeping the world at bay.  I am thankful every single day that Bubba has given me back the ability to walk into public with confidence.  I can concentrate on my connection with him, and I don’t have to worry about anyone else on the planet.

More and more people are beginning to use service dogs for “invisible” disabilities.  Just because you can’t see an issue, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.  I never realized just how freeing it could be to have a dog beside me as I venture into the world. I wish that everyone  dealing with a problem or a difference could have the same opportunity I am enjoying…the ability to finally feel normal.

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13 thoughts on “Bubba’s Place in the World

  1. As a depression sufferer, so much of what you say rings true for me, too! You are a magnificent writer – able to convey feelings and emotions in a completely real and unsentimental way. I adored Ray through your Facebook eyes; cried when he left you; and have felt joy at the addition of Bubba G. I hope you will continue to let us follow the two of you through life’s adventures.

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  2. I don’t like being out with people either. I’m an extreme introvert and prefer a rather nocturnal life. I can handle going out to places and doing things but the relief of coming home where it’s quiet and peaceful is huge. I too would just as soon stay home the majority of the time. I don’t miss the social interaction. I had my sweet Sunny (a pit bull Rottweiler mix) who anticipated my every move, brought me his and his two brothers dishes after they were fed, would carry notes between my spouse and me (although they were usually quite damp on delivery) and whose support I deeply miss. I’m down to an elderly Smoky, he is the one in need of support. I know that your openness will help others, it left me feeling less different. Bubba is such a handsome boy. I’m glad you have each other. He needs you too. Pit bulls are such wonderful dogs. All the best to you both.

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  3. I’m so happy you have found a new best friend to be your anchor in this crazy world and I’m so happy you saved another Pibble!! He is beautiful!

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  4. ❤ to you and all your pups! I too suffer from social anxiety and depression. Your description of crowds, events, being in public is spot on for me, too. I don't have a service dog, but I have my Oscar, an Affenpinscher (as Handsome Dan's Rescue might put it, I consider Oscar a pit-bull-type Affen). He's a wonderful, well behaved, charming little man, and being out in public with him is so much easier than being out without him. Small talk starts and revolves around him, and everyone loves him, and so my interactions with people are always positive when I have him. Every now and then, my work allows us to bring our dogs in for a day, and the last time I did this, I felt so good about my day at work – he just gave me so much confidence just by being at my side.

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  5. I watched Ray through your facebook page. It was an honor to follow his story. Especially his role as your heart dog. And now, Bubba …thank you for sharing this. My guy has social anxiety, and his “baby hippo” is so good for him. She’s not a therapy dog, but she is his therapy. She relishes her “role” for her Daddy. She too, has issues. Noises, strange things…can startle her. But she looks to him for security…and vise versa. It’s a very special thing they have.
    Thank you for sharing your story. It gives many who may suffer like this hope…and makes them see they are actually “normal”. Though, the more “weird” one is, the more interesting they are to me. 😊

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  6. How many hearts can I give you and Bubba G.. Hmmm. The world may never know.. ❤️❤️❤️ Bless you and that sweet boy. You’re both completely awesome in my book. Im so glad you found each other. THat Ray can rest happy in that Bubba has taken up taking care of what he loved most. You. ❤️❤️❤️❤️

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  7. OMG Jacque, you have just described me spot on! I spent my life working ibn human resources where I was forced to interact with people and on work issues it was fine. In fact I did my best work mediating disputes between crazy employees and rigid, unveiling to compromise supervisors. This became a great part in a long running play! It took so much out of me, however that I would agree to social events and cancel at the last minute all the time. I just wanted to stay home. Animals helped, counseling and drugs helped, and learning techniques for coping with my racing mind and the exhaustion of it all helped. And getting older has certainly helped because my level of acceptance of my own needs has grown immensely. I often repeat something I read along the way, “we’re all just walking each other home” smash uhh have found great piece inn that. Just had to write and say you’re not alone. Love /Valerie (the one whom you tried to help in July 2011 when I was bringing my cockatoo Sydney from San Diego to Denver for him to go into life time sanctuary at the Gabriel Foundation, where he is flourishing with a birdie best friend and they are bonded and so happy behaving like rowdy boy birds instead of Sydney’s petulant and frustrated attitude trying to be my boyfriend. You were so great and I will never forget your kindness to me at a time when I was beyond consolation….)

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