Any dog owner knows that the joys of having a four legged companion are many: owning a pet has been shown to help lower blood pressure and help with overall stress, anxiety, and levels of happiness, not to mention the fact that dog owners have been shown to be in better shape than their non-canine loving counterparts. For one man, however, the joys of owning a dog have proven to be literally life saving.
Gary Pipe and a History of Addiction
Former drug addict Gary Pipe had led a life riddled with addiction for over twenty five years. He was living in the Avalon Hotel, an assisted living facility in Vancouver, Canada, which specialized in helping low income people faced with addiction and mental illness. At the time, Pipe had been struggling with addiction to painkillers and heroin for more than twenty five years. At the facility, he was receiving help for his addiction, but still struggled with the abuse of crack cocaine.
Kolby Visits the Avalon
While at the Avalon, Pipe was one of many patients who was visited by Kolby, a German Shepherd and Golden Retriever mix. Kolby was brought in by his owner, Jenny Konkin, who had the dog visit residents as a way of bringing joy and therapy to their lives. Many of the residents responded very strongly to the friendly dog, and Gary became so attached to him that he told Katie she would have to take him back or leave the dog with him.
A Dynamic Duo
Pipe was given Kolby, and the two immediately formed an incredibly strong bond. They went everywhere together, and Kolby’s sweet nature helped Pipe work through the struggle of overcoming addiction. Pipe suddenly had companionship and a reason to go outside for fresh air and exercise.
Getting Better for Kolby
As Pipe was spending all of his time with Kolby, he realized that his crack addiction was taking a toll on his new best friend. Kolby would leave the room or even vomit when Pipe smoked crack, so Pipe realized that his addiction could very well cost him Kolby. Pipe’s love for the dog was so strong, he was absolutely determined not to lose him, and he quit smoking crack for the good of his dog and ultimately himself. He stopped using the drug and also stopped associating with anyone who was using or may use in front of he and Kolby.
Spoiling His Friend
Since quitting crack cocaine, Pipe has been clean for eleven years, and now uses the money he used to spend on dangerous drugs for indulgent treats for Kolby. As a thank you for saving his life, Pipe feeds Kolby steak for dinner every night, even when Pipe only eats soup. Both Pipe and Kolby enjoy daily walks which, Pipe says, are the main thing that keep him out and about enjoying the world, rather than just sitting inside watching television.
Animals have been helping humans with a variety of issues for a number of years. While some animals, like seeing eye dogs or “helping hands” monkeys help disabled people by assisting them with the day to day tasks that their disabilities affect, therapy animals have been used to help all different types of mentally ill people. Therapy dogs can help with addiction, as they help lower anxiety and can also help an addict start to realize the importance of taking care of themselves as they take care of another living creature. Therapy dogs, cats, and even horses, can have a huge and lasting impact on a person’s recovery and earn more than their weight in treats.
Cindy Nichols is the founder of 411 Intervention, a full-service intervention resource that helps individuals with addiction issues find treatment solutions. You can see an interview with Cindy here on Recovery Now TV.