I traveled back to my hometown of Pittsburgh this week for the first time in two years. I made the trip for my grandmother’s ninetieth birthday party, so there was a lot of going through old family photos. I kept a few of the ones of — with apologies to all the humans I’ve known — the best friend I ever had until I met wife, my childhood dog Mindy.
Out of utter desperation and despair, today I sent a request for help to the only man capable of delivering it: Sherlock Holmes. As you likely know, the Great Detective responds to all correspondence sent to him (via his secretary at Baker Street in London).
Feb. 6, 2014
Dear Mr. Holmes,
This is my first time writing to a fictional character. However, this is also the first time I’ve had such a serious fictional problem.
Since all the with-it people in America know that the new Breaking Bad is Animal Planet’s Dogs 101, you’re certainly well familiar with this tidbit from the borzoi segment, but humor me.
An organization in Arizona called Operation Wolfhound trains borzoi (AKA Russian wolfhounds) as psychiatric service dogs for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. The dogs provide comfort therapy, learn to walk with the vets in such a way that they feel guarded and safe in crowds, and even help them to distinguish hallucinations from reality. But I’m interested in OW’s work because they’ve come up with a remarkable way to train their dogs to provide specific support and prevention for anxiety.
I’ve written many times about the trapped-on-the-couch symptom that comes with OCD and anxiety disorders, including PTSD. Your brain gets locked into a loop of worry, and the eddy sucks you in an immobilizes you, sometimes for hours, without you even becoming aware. And when you do become aware, it takes a great effort of will to break out of the cycle. So Operation Wolfhound teaches borzoi to recognize the physical signals of anxiety — both the ones humans can sense and the ones we can’t, like the smell of changing body chemistry. When the dog notices a fugue state coming on, it gives its owner a nudge. It’s both a physical and mental nudge; a nose tap or a paw swipe to say, “Hey, snap out of it. Pay attention to me.”
Every freaking October.
It’s OCD Awareness Week, and embarrassingly not only haven’t I written anything about OCD this week, I haven’t written anything about OCD for months. So here are a four quick tidbits to keep up the collective chin of those of us with OCD.
I’m posting these tokens of hope especially for those who came to my site to read “My OCD” because they’re plagued by obsessions and anxieties and are frightened about what it all means. You are not alone, and you can take control of your life. Understanding those two things are step number one. This should help:
The Los Angeles Dodgers are just a few hours away from possibly the deciding game of the NLCS, looking for a trip to the World Series. Turns out that Zack Greinke, the Dodgers pitcher who won game 5 of the series by pitching
seven scoreless innings seven innings and allowing just two runs on six hits, 1Corrected. I misread the box score. has social anxiety disorder, a cousin of OCD.
“It was like having anxiety every day,” he says of the problem that plagued him since high school, but just like most of us with anxiety disorders, Greinke didn’t seek treatment until the fear got so bad that it threatened to ruin his life. During spring training of 2006, his irrational anxiety snowballed to the point that he considered leaving baseball. He got help and was prescribed Zoloft, which he still takes.
Three reasons for hope here:
|1.||↵||Corrected. I misread the box score.|
A few weeks back I told you about University of Michigan researcher Morgan Gustison raising money to study gelada monkeys in Ethiopia. I’m pleased to say that, as of Monday, Morgan’s Petridish.org fundraising campaign met its goal. She even received a Young Explorer’s Grant from the National Geographic Society. Thanks to that cash, Morgan’s able not only to continue expanding our knowledge of the origins of language, but also to continue helping the local Ethiopian people by hiring the families of farmers and shepherds as research assistants.
By the way, Petridish.org (a Kickstarter for science projects) has some new campaigns up and running, all of which are worth exploring. You can help geologists map the history of the Earth’s supercontinents, or pay for geneticists to collect DNA samples of African dogs to trace the origins of the first domesticated canines. A $30 pledge to that one gets you a signed photograph of an African village dog. Did you know that African dogs can sign photographs? See, you learned something already. 1I have a soft spot for that one. People and dogs have a unique relationship — prehistoric humans domesticated dogs before civilization existed. Studying the history of their interaction teaches us about evolution, genetics, and how humans unwittingly engineer the environment. Go buy some science.
|1.||↵||I have a soft spot for that one. People and dogs have a unique relationship — prehistoric humans domesticated dogs before civilization existed. Studying the history of their interaction teaches us about evolution, genetics, and how humans unwittingly engineer the environment.|
A man who tried to shoot seven puppies was shot himself when one of the dogs put its paw on the revolver’s trigger.
—”Pup shoots man, saves litter mates,” CNN.com, September 9, 2004
I suppose it was only a matter of time before we witnessed the next logical step in the man-bites-dog evolution: puppy caps man with .38. Indeed, an unnamed puppy in Pensacola, Florida—I’ll assume it’s a boy and call him “Blaster”—found himself in the arms of his master, who had already shot three of Blaster’s litter mates and was preparing to do in the rest. Blaster stuck his paw onto the trigger and pumped the dirty rat full of hot lead, 1Actually, he hit him once in the wrist. heroically saving his brothers and sisters. Aside from being the biggest news story of recent memory, 2Except, of course, for the Great Tulane Monkey Escape. Blaster’s actions raise a series of progressively more difficult ethical questions. 3I’m not going to answer most of them, especially the hard ones.
|1.||↵||Actually, he hit him once in the wrist.|
|2.||↵||Except, of course, for the Great Tulane Monkey Escape.|
|3.||↵||I’m not going to answer most of them, especially the hard ones.|