I apologize in advance, as this will be rather lengthy. Future Adventure of Lobo posts should not be nearly this long, I promise!
Also, the first half of this may be hard for some people to read so: TRIGGER WARNING!
For you to fully understand the importance of Lobo being in my life, I need to backtrack a bit. The reason The Adventures of Lobo are posted in the “mental health” category is because I suffer from PTSD, and while that itself is simple to type, the cause is not. At age 15 I acquired an adult male stalker that hunted me for over a year, even breaking into my bedroom a few times and yes, sexually assaulting on occasion. I had my virginity stolen from me. He found it amusing, mocked, bragged, while at the same time kept claiming he was in love with me. I still have no idea how he learned so many things about me, such as my favorite flower. I was too humiliated to tell anyone about it, and he was only (kinda) stopped when he ambushed me on the way home from school one day. A classmate who saw it ran off and got my mother, who called the police. The trouble didn’t completely stop there, however. The police accused me of knowing him and just getting caught meeting up with him. Further humiliation ensued as I was singled out at my middle school for having to be walked home by the principal the rest of the school year. It didn’t stop him completely, just changed his tactics a bit, thus during my freshman year of highschool he persisted in calling my home and sneaking things into my room through my window (I had already stopped sleeping in my own room at this point). He only gave up completely after I finally stopped staying at my own house.
I didn’t realize the extent of the damage this entire thing had caused. I developed severe social anxiety and was diagnosed as bipolar, but since I was still too embarrassed to tell anyone about the whole ordeal most of my extreme personality changes were attributed to me hitting those rebellious teenage years. Extreme insomnia, night terrors, sleep paralysis, hyper-vigilance, refusal to use bathrooms with windows, fear of windows being uncovered at night, hatred of my own body to the point of shaving off my hair and wearing mostly mens clothes, self-mutilation… these were seen as “quirks” or treated as negative attention seeking. I eventually dropped out of high school, at the urging of the school therapist who claimed I was not only “too smart and just spinning my wheels” but that the social anxiety of being at school was holding me back.
I’m not going to type out my life story, since this is about my dog, but fast forward to 2012 where I was sent for an extensive psych evaluation because I was trying to brave going to college and their counselors, plus my doctor, suspected I had adult ADD. Many hours of weird tests later they sit me down and say that it’s PTSD, which can cause many of the same behaviors/symptoms as adult ADD. Suddenly everything made sense to me, and proper treatment started immediately. I made fairly decent progress too, including becoming rather confident in my own skin, until an incident in 2016 brought with it a complete relapse. (Short version is a stalker from my college.) It was just like I was 16 all over again, complete with shaved head and self-mutilation. I think this may be the most I have ever shared about my trauma, actually. It probably helps that I am typing, as verbally I’ve only been able to choke out vague bits. I apologize for the wall of text but I think it is important for you to know these symptoms and where they came from.
Ok, ok… so what does all that have to do with Lobo? Well, the therapist I’ve had the past two years or so had often told me I’d benefit greatly from a PTSD service dog. Unfortunately, my insurance definitely does not cover service dogs and the only programs I could find to make PTSD dogs more affordable were specifically for military veterans. After lots of research, I found the only affordable option would be to buy or adopt my own pup and have it trained to do the specific tasks (as opposed to paying over $10,000 for a specifically bred + pre-trained dog) or, even cheaper, train it myself. There are huge downsides to this route, however. First problem is, if I buy or adopt a dog over 3 months old I have missed the most crucial time for its “socialization” training. This is the ideal time to teach the pups to ignore other people and animals, which is necessary when on the job – especially in public. I also wouldn’t know if the dog is even going to take to the training until after trying for a while, so I could be investing time and money into something that simply isn’t going to work. Still, I had found many cases where older dogs, some with supposed “behavior problems”, were taken from shelters and got jobs as service dogs – thus I held out hope and kept doing bits of research. Finally I had decided: I wanted to adopt (not buy) a young dog and attempt to get it properly service dog certified. If things don’t work out, I’d still have a therapy dog after all.
My then fiance, however, gave me a reality check. I live in an apartment and own a cat. Not only does this place only allow for EITHER one cat or one dog, but the dogs have weight limits. Even if I bypass these restrictions because the dog could be deemed medically necessary, is it really okay to keep the size dog I want/need in an apartment? Thus, in 2017 my primary goal shifted to moving into a house first. After all, this “neighborhood” is scary and the landlord abusive. Sadly, 2017 ended up being hell financially and every time we came close to moving into a house something would happen to rip it out from under us. My amazing friends, both in person and online, helped me make it through the year and I also managed to lawyer up against the landlord. I even had 2 jobs set to start in 2018, so there was still some hope ahead… which was quickly stripped away. One of the jobs ended up pretty much being a con and the other ended July 2018 when I had to have surgery on my right hand. It’s safe to say 2018 plunged me into the worst depression I’ve had in years…
…until I noticed an animal shelter had opened in my town and was looking for volunteers…
Just kidding, I’m not done with this post yet. Anyway, I decided to sign up as a volunteer. It would get me out of the house, give me satisfying work plus that sweet sweet dog fix. My then fiance warned me that I would come home with a dog but I didn’t listen…WHY DIDN’T I LISTEN!? Spoiler: I’m glad I didn’t listen. Although the image link below will somewhat expose the general area I live in, I feel this lil shelter deserves all the love and support it can get so go check it out!
My first visit to Pawsitive Warriors was to fill out volunteer paperwork and get a tour of the place. I was happy to see someone I recognized running the place that day, as it relieved some of that social anxiety I was fighting. We chatted dogs, training, and service dogs. I mentioned German Shepherds were the most recommended for PTSD service dogs but that I wish I could have a service wolf. “Maybe I’ll find a mix” – I joked. Suddenly everyone said I needed to meet Timber, and was whisked away. Timber was fairly new, and not quite ready for adoption yet. A very big beautiful boy that looked at me like he was lost in thought. Then, he stood on his back legs and slobbered all over my hair. We became fast friends. There was suspicion that he was at least some part wolf, he was definitely mixed with something. (Since adopting him, I’ve had many random folk ask what percentage wolf he is, so I guess we’re right.) It seemed Timber was exactly what I wanted in a service dog, but I was not looking for one yet. Still, I admit he got more of my affection than the others when I was there to volunteer.
I mean…can you blame me? Then I heard his story, and began to actually consider adopting him. His owner had abandoned him and her own kids. He had been living in a car after that, eating junk food. If he’s been living in a car, my apartment would surely be a huge step up! So I decided to give him a home trial to see if he would be a fit. I had a great deal of trouble at first. He wasn’t leash trained and twice dragged me along on the ground. He also wasn’t used to cats, and was obsessed with them for a while. At the same time, though, he was naturally doing things that PTSD dogs are trained to do and had a huge willingness to learn. After much deliberation I finally decided – I was adopting Timber. It was very expensive, and threw my home and finances into chaos for a good while… but absolutely worth it.
At this point you may be wondering why I’m calling him Timber when the name of the post is “Adventures of Lobo”. When I adopted him, he was about one and a half years old. The owner that had abandoned him was the one that named him Timber, and at first I didn’t plan to change that since he was already that old. When I brought him home for the trial period, however, I noticed it almost seemed like he didn’t like hearing his name. A bit of internet research later and I learned that despite his age a name change might actually be good for him. It would help him adjust to the fact that he has a new family, and thus new rules as well. Picking his new name proved somewhat difficult, but I had gotten it down to two choices. My son liked “Koga” and my then fiance liked “Lobo”. I really loved both names, felt they each were a good fit, but didn’t think they went well together. I needed to pick one, so I turned to Twitter for help. Using a Twitter poll, it seemed everyone else was also evenly torn between the two, but Lobo won by just a hair and to my surprise he took to the name very quickly.
In the six months he’s been here, my overall quality of life has vastly improved. I get out more due to walking him, and sleep much better because not only do I feel safe, but he will put his weight on me if I’m having trouble. I suppose I can scratch weighted blanket off my wish list, yeah?
Words cannot properly express my gratitude for this furbaby. It’s like we were meant to find each other… I mean, his absolute favorite toy is a “werewolf” dog toy I picked up on a whim from a Halloween clearance rack! How perfect is that!? He’s currently in my medical file as an ESA and while we’ve made huge progress with basic obedience training over these six months, I think I’ll need professional help if I am going to attempt service dog training. As of this month, he’ll be two years old. I don’t know the exact date, so I picked February 14th as his birthday, because duh.
In part two I plan to catch everyone up on the actual adventures he’s had so far, which will set the tone for future “Adventures of Lobo” posts. I’ll share pictures, firsts, training progress and more!
In the meantime, if you’d like to send Lobo a birthday gift (or some supplies) I am considering giving them to him on a stream (if there’s enough interest)! Check out the wish list here!