“Who rescued who?” It’s a phrase you hear a lot in the animal adoption world, and those three words couldn’t hold a deeper meaning for the patients in our Women’s Program.
Director Melissa Hudgens, her team, and her patients have been fostering two puppies for the last several weeks. She says it’s one of the best decisions they’ve made for the program – not because it’s smooches and snuggles all the time– that’s a part of it, sure. But it’s also cleaning up messes, practicing patience, and an opportunity to provide a second chance.
“They love to cuddle so the women get lots of affection, but they also get to see the crazy moments too, like when we’re having to chase them around because we forgot the leashes and they take off. It’s a grounding moment that gets us back in reality because life gets crazy trying to maneuver and juggle all that we have to do. The puppies really have been a blessing, “said Melissa.
Together, the all- female staff and their patients are mothering the once fragile pups, and it reminds them to also nurture themselves.
“Their future is in our hands and guiding them reminds me that my own future also needs my love and attention. Just like the puppies are worthy of a better tomorrow, so am I,” said resident Jennifer.
Jennifer also says if she had the ability to bottle puppy breath, she’d never have to work another day in her life.
“It’s the best smell!” said Jennifer.
Staff love seeing the positive impact the puppies have on the women.
“When they talk about them their faces light up. They all have a special connection to the puppies and it’s wonderful to see,” said Counselor Chanda Reeves.
“They are able to show that nurturing side of themselves, but also they get love in return from the puppies, unconditional love that maybe they feel they haven’t gotten before,” said counselor Ariel Adams.
Anna, a resident at Cumberland Heights, said the puppies arrived just at the right time. Five of her closest friends had just completed the program so she was feeling alone and down.
“These puppies have cheered me up immensely and make the entire group smile and laugh when they are around. The puppies have loved us unconditionally since the day we met which is how we all feel about the new community members joining our cabin. You are loved by everyone the moment you step in the door. The pups have brought genuine love and laughter into my life – two things I haven’t experienced in a long time. I’m lucky to have the puppies to snuggle with. This foster program is bringing additional love to my recovery journey and I am so grateful to be a participant.”
Melissa notes that sometimes emotional healing can even lead to better physical health. Upon entering the program, a patient was very sick. She had to stay in the medical unit, away from the other patients until her health improved. She seemed to be there for quite some time. That patient said she was struggling emotionally too and really missed her dog. Melissa brought the puppies to her one day to try to brighten her spirit, and soon after, her vital signs were back to normal!
“It gave me chills,” said Melissa.
One of the puppies is up for adoption, but the other has been spoken for. Teague is now a permanent member of the Cumberland Heights family. The dog was named after an employee and dear friend to many, Brad Teague, who passed away earlier this year. Brady was a light on campus, just like the puppies have been.
This isn’t the first dog CH has had since it opened its doors 54 years ago. The facility actually has a long history with pups.
“Very early on there was a black Labrador Retriever named Sam. And then there was Dice, a Doberman that once lived along a golf course and liked to retrieve golf balls, much to the dismay of the players. Once he arrived at CH, he found his purpose, ensuring patients got safely to and from the gate. Alki, a resident dog counselor lived on campus for 10 years before passing away in 1976. I remember Sot. He was a dog here when I came to treatment in the 80s. There was also Max, Rehab, Relapse, Low Rider and Yogi to name a few. These dogs proved to be great companions in recovery, and I am proud we are keeping the tradition alive,” said CEO Jay Crosson.
About the Author:
Liz Stanislawski is the Marketing and Public Relations Manager for Cumberland Heights