Maddy is a young girl that came to us with obsessive-compulsive tendencies as well as severe anxiety and depression. Despite a great support system from her family and medical staff, her symptoms were debilitating.
Her condition affected every aspect of her life. During anxiety attacks, she would exhibit repetitive behaviors that, in turn, caused her to withdraw, lose friends, and miss 122 days of school in one school year.
A new approach for Maddy’s care
She and her family tried many options, including in-patient and out-patient counseling. Nothing was working. Her doctor said it was the worst level of anxiety he had seen. Then Maddy attended a kids’ summer camp.
Out on the lake in a canoe with a counselor, Megan, she opened up about her struggles. Her counselor shared that she was getting a service dog from Deafinitely Dogs! for similar symptoms and suggested that Maddy check them out.
When we met her, Maddy was open to trying a service dog as an alternative to her other treatments. We know it’s critical to match the dog to the person and the behavior. The first two dogs we introduced her to were not a good match, and the dogs clearly demonstrated that. The feeling of rejection from the dogs was crushing to Maddy, but we promised her we would find her the right dog.
We spent hours looking for just the right dog and eventually found him down south in Georgia. The minute we met Leo we knew he was Maddy’s dog.
Maddy meets Leo
When we introduced Maddy and Leo, there was an immediate connection. In the first five seconds, Leo crawled in Maddie’s lap and smiled. When Maddy smiled back, we all knew that this was her dog.
After their connection was made, we trained Leo to address Maddy’s specific needs. We trained him to interrupt her self-destructive behaviors, to apply pressure and weight that would help ground her, and helped him understand how to be her constant companion. All of these skill helps Maddy know – even during her worst symptoms – that she’s OK. The team training – with Maddy and Leo working together – also went well.
How Leo helps
Two days into their working relationship, Maddy had an appointment with a counselor. Her regular counselor was unavailable, which meant a new person and new office – both of which put Maddy into a state of extreme anxiety. Before Leo, that would have meant a trip to the hospital for Maddy. But Leo got to work, applied pressure, and eventually got eye-to-eye with Maddy. Even with such a short time together, that critical bond between Maddy and Leo was in place. Leo calmed Maddy down so she could keep her appointment and get the help she needed.
Leo also started going to school with Maddy. With his assistance, amazing things happened. Maddy went from missing 122 days of school due to depression and anxiety to missing zero days with Leo at her side. She was able to make friends and maintain healthy relationships again. She even attended her school dances.
Leo comforts everyone
The impact extended beyond just Maddy. With Leo supporting Maddy, her family was able to take their first family vacation ever, knowing they didn’t have to worry about Maddy having a panic attack. As a family, they decided to fly to Florida for a vacation at Disney World. They were a little worried about Leo flying. Not only did the plane not bother him, but he also ended up calming down the entire family, and the vacation was a success.
Leo has given both Maddy and her entire family a new outlook. Her family now doesn’t have to worry about leaving Maddy home or her reaction to new situations. Leo has given the family the security that Maddy will be OK.
And one of the most amazing benefits of Leo is that there has been a difference in Maddy’s whole persona: Her outlook and attitude are confident and flourishing, and she’s learning to walk in her own shoes and manage her symptoms. She’s even been able to use this as an education platform to advocate for disabilities and service dogs with her classmates.