February 8, 2019 I treat people who have panic attacks severe enough to trigger a seizure. Many are hesitant to travel; afraid their stress will trigger a medical emergency.
I was interviewing for an administrator one day and applicant, Sarah, arrived with a black lab named Luna. Sarah said, “Luna helps me manage my anxiety. She gives me joy. I can work without medication.”
Sarah had been in the throes of deep, dangerous depression and taking antidepressants. She said she wanted to “accidentally overdose or be allowed to exit the earth quietly and gracefully.”
Then she met Luna whose joy when they played tug-of-war with a hand towel was contagious. Luna made her laugh. “Petting her eased the pressure in my chest,” she said. “It prevented a panic attack.”
Luna didn’t erase Sarah’s depression. She wasn’t magically better. Luna gave her moments of joy. Sarah said, “She gave me joy that I hadn’t experienced before.”
Most importantly, Luna made Sarah stop thinking about dying. “Even on the hardest days Luna neededme. I was responsible for my own life and the life of a pet that I loved desperately. She needed me as much as I needed her.”
Sarah had tried countless things to ease her depression and make life better, to learn to love her self and learn to manage her anxiety. “Now Luna gets me out of bed,” Sarah said. “She gets me to work, even if I want to sleep forever.”
Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) give U.S. residents several benefits. Just like full-fledged service animals, ESAs are about the freedom and health of a disabled person. Landlords can’t deny them housing. U.S.-based airlines allow them to fly with their dogs in-cabin, without a fee.
ESAs draw criticism. People say, “If you are such a baby that you need your pet maybe you shouldn’t fly at all,” or, “Pop a Xanax.” Why is medication always the answer? Invisible disabilities cause people to roll their eyes and think, “What a faker; another selfish, system-player.”
“I want you to know how Luna saved me, “ Sarah said. “I want you to know I might not be here today if Luna had not entered my life.”
That’s why I am happy to share Luna’s story.
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LUNA THE THERAPY DOG
Terry Martin Ph.D
Reflections on Life
NEVER GET A HAIRCUT
IN A STRANGE CITY
February 16, 2019 Sandy retired from his job at a brokerage firm and moved to Arizona. “I wanted to relax and play golf twelve months a year,” he said. But, he soon tired of leading a one-dimensional life and took a job with a sliding-shelf manufacturer.
He talked about his frustration as he measured our kitchen cabinets for new shelves. “My mind was going to waste,” he said, “I used to be a whiz with numbers––eighths and sixteenths were a piece of cake. But it dawned on me that I was losing it, I couldn’t add up fours, fives and sixes on a scorecard. I decided to give up golf.”
He pushed his baseball cap back on his head, “I’ll tell you a funny story. Last week I was in Las Vegas making sales calls. I needed a haircut so I wandered into a barbershop and sat down in a chair against the wall.
There were three barber chairs, all empty. A man was sweeping hair off the floor and paid no attention to me. After a minute or two I asked if I could get a haircut. He said, ‘Sure,’ and pointed to the first chair. I sat down and he began to cut my hair. He clipped away and we were engaged in small talk when three girls wearing smocks entered from the back room and started to whisper to each other. I asked who they were.”
He said, “They are the barbers.”
“I asked who he was. ’I’m the janitor. I’ve worked here for 20 years. I’ve watched them cut hair every day. Heck, there’s nothing to it. I figured you are in a hurry and I can give you a haircut. No problem.’”
Sandy removed his baseball cap, revealing a hatchet job. “Look what he did to me,” he said. “And this is after one of the real barbers tried to patch it up. Even worse, it cost me twenty bucks.”
• • •
Flashback: I was on vacation in San Francisco with time to kill when a small two-chair barbershop beckoned my presence. It had a black and white checkered tile floor, vintage glossy-white metal chairs and a handlebar-mustachioed barber who welcomed me. I felt like I was like stepping into the 1920s. There aren’t many shops like that. The barber said, “Thanks for stopping by, have a seat.”
I had good vibes at first, but the haircut began rather unpleasantly. Cold, metal hand clippers inched up the back of my neck–old clippers with dull teeth that ripped as many hairs as they clipped.
“This is special day,“ the barber chirped. “We are closing the shop today after more than forty years.” (Gulp) I showed up a day early; I wanted to escape.
The haircut took forever, I felt trapped as he dragged the comb back and forth, snipping and reminiscing about the shop’s history, all the regulars and “in my day…”
When he spun the chair around to the wall mirror I resisted the urge to scream. All I could think about was where can to lay low for six months.
My wife’s review was brief, “Who scalped you?” she asked as I ran through the living room. “You look thirty years younger.”
“Forty,” I replied from the closet.
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