Dog Uses Life Experience to Help Children of Abuse

By: Nathan Grant

When it comes to abuse, Patriot unfortunately understands.

With scars running across his white muzzle, this 5-year-old Siberian husky shows his ability to get through anything. While these scars may never fade, Patriot has overcome the difficulties he has faced.

Now, he spends his time with children who have also suffered physical and sexual abuse.

“Patriot’s work with abuse victims stems from his understanding and empathy with other victims,” Kevin Marlin, who adopted Patriot when he was rescued by the Orange County SPCA (OCSPCA) in California, explained. 

“He seems to have a way of understanding their pain and helps them to see that there is life and love after abuse. Many of the victims can easily identify with him and recognize his scars as having been from abuse.”

In 2012, Patriot was rescued at 4-months-old. He had suffered injuries to his muzzle and mouth, according to the program director at Pets Are Wonderful Support (PAWS) and PAWS Assist the Needs of the District Attorney therapy programs for OCSPCA. 

After a local veterinary hospital looked into the husky’s injuries, it was discovered they were caused by metal wire. The wire had been wrapped around his muzzle so tightly, it left a permanent mark. The wire lacerated his muzzle and his jowls. 

“He was underweight and scrawny and appeared to be malnourished,” Marlin said.

Patriot’s wounds were treated for infection. He had multiple surgeries to fix the damage done to his muzzle as well. 

“Emotionally, he seemed understandably withdrawn and reclusive, but not at all aggressive,” Marlin recalled. “If you didn’t know he had been abused, one might think he was just shy and antisocial. He just didn’t seem to enjoy the company of humans.”

Patriot’s recovery time took awhile, and for good reason. 

“The one thing that rescue has taught me is that part of the process for any rescued dog is to help them unpack the ‘baggage of the unknown,’” Marlin said. “Each dog takes with him or her a bag packed full of memories and history — some good and some bad. In Patriot’s case, his baggage included someone who wanted to dominate and overpower him, in a cruel effort to make him miserable or even kill him.”

At first, Patriot hated having his muzzle touched. This made it challenging to examine the injuries and check the healing process. 

“One of the things I used to do was to put peanut butter on my fingers and let him nibble and lick it from my hands,” Marlin said. “This helped him to trust me and to also teach him that I was not going to hurt him.”

it took until he was older than a  year to begin wearing collars. 

“He would constantly work to remove them and chew them up regardless of what kind or [how] loose I put them on,” Marlin said. “I don’t think he liked the feeling of having something around his neck. He would even get the other dogs in our pack to remove them for him if he couldn’t.”

Even still, Patriot is troubled by the sound of yelling or raised voices. 

“He will quickly leave the room to hide if that happens, so I try to keep my conversations around him low and calm,” Marlin said.

As time went on, Patriot’s wounds healed – both those visible and those inside. A time even came where Patriot wanted to help others suffering from similar troubles. 

“My original intentions were not at all keeping him to become a therapy dog,” Marlin said. “I had set the bar with him at making him social enough to adapt to a family lifestyle and have some trust with people.”

Marlin’s male malamute, Odie, recently retired from pet therapy. The hope to help others passed along to Patriot. 

“I never pushed him to it, he wanted to,” Marlin said. “He was one of the easier dogs I’ve ever trained for the program and surprisingly passed the evaluation at 1 year of age — something not many dogs in the program have done. Usually at that age they don’t have the focus or ambition, but he seemed to want to get started right off.”

In 2015, Patriot officially became a therapy dog. He works with children and adults, all in different situations including retirement homes, hospice care, brain trauma units, special needs classes, domestic violence shelters, foster homes, and group homes. 

Patriot helps comfort children of abuse while they talk through their experiences in court proceedings. 

Marlin could remember a young girl feeling very uncomfortable as she awaited her trial. She talked about Patriot to seek comfort. 

“He worked his way [over to] her, until he finally nudged her with his nose,” Marlin said. “The young girl wrapped her arms around him as the tears rolled down her face, and the two made a connection on a spiritual level. At the end of the meeting, she had left the room, only to return a few moments later, where she came back to Patriot and hugged him again, having a hard time leaving him behind.”

Many people have been amazed by how much Patriot has changed. He went from a timid, traumatized dog to one full of love. 

“He proudly wears his ‘racing stripes’ as a reminder of his story of survival and forgiving nature,” Marlin said. “I think we’ve much to learn from dogs and their unconditional love. Still, it is hard to believe that he would come as far as he has.”

Patriot finally enjoys life as a dog should. He plays, swims, and has fun! 

“He does like to spend his mornings sleeping in, but then it’s off to work where he gets to come to the office with me most days,” Marlin said. “He has his own couch there, and plenty of toys. His days are not entirely lounging around on the couch though — he loves to play with his pack mates and is regularly out with me on therapy visits.”

Source: The Dodo

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