Before I was a parent, my animals were like my children and it seemed that those with special needs were drawn to me the most.
Over the years I have housed an epileptic cat, malnourished hand-raised birds, and a pup with a lower motor neuron disease. This is the story of how my dog Jude helped me to fight my depression.
Jude was a Bedlington Terrier I adopted as a four-month-old puppy through a local breeder, my family joked that he was like a newborn because he never left my side. The day I picked him up was 11 January 2011―the day the floods hit Grantham and the Lockyer Valley in Queensland, Australia where I live. I remember driving home with this fluffy little bundle as police were starting to close off highways and lock down towns. Luckily, we arrived at our house shortly before the floods hit and were subsequently stranded in our Placid Hills home between Grantham and Gatton―alone for days without power or water.
Our bond grew during that first month, but one morning toward the end of January, I woke to find that Jude was unable to use his back legs. He was rushed to the vet and tested for various problems. Although the results weren’t conclusive, his health rapidly deteriorated. With the requirement of round-the-clock care and further tests to try to establish what was wrong, the vet bills mounted. After a few months, I found myself almost $10,000 in debt and was considering the possibility of selling my car to fund further healthcare because Jude’s quality of life meant so much to me.
Finally, with confirmation from an expert in the field, it was confirmed that Jude had a rare lower motor neuron disease called Myasthenia Gravis that effects the signals sent between nerves and muscles. In this case, it caused fatigue, muscle weakness, and an enlarged esophagus, meaning that Jude could no longer eat unassisted. A tube was inserted into his stomach and Jude needed to be fed a liquid diet through this tube every four hours.
Seeing him go through this ordeal motivated me to find answers. I began to do research and started to learn about natural therapies including various herbs and supplements and infrared acupuncture, which I started to implement―with astounding results.
In September 2011, Jude had improved but my own depression was severe and I overdosed in an attempt to end my life. I still remember Jude chasing the ambulance down the street as I was rushed away and our reunion when I returned home after an extended stay in the hospital. His presence at the time gave me a reason to survive, and I was also able to find ways to improve my mental health through natural therapies.
Unfortunately, over the coming months Jude’s health went downhill again, and in January 2012 he was very unwell. At this stage, I couldn’t bring myself to put him through more extensive surgery and suffering, so I made the excruciating decision to put him to sleep. I took him home to be buried in our backyard and have kept his favourite dog toy in a keepsake box to remember him by―more than six years on and it still makes me cry.
I am now 28, a wife and mother of two. The journey of my own healing began with the path I took to help Jude cope with his illness. He helped me find my purpose and gave me love when I needed it most. I am so grateful for the time we shared together.
Words: Lea Sharp
Images: Lea Sharp
Editing: Sharnon Mentor-King