“Opportunities will come and go. But, if you do nothing about them, so will you.”
– Richie Norton, Author
We’ve all heard the expression, “when opportunity knocks…“, that is stated to preface when a positive option or happening presents itself – you should go for it! That’s the best way to describe the creation of our organization, WOOFobia™.
On June 3, 2017, the Articles of Incorporation were officially filed with the state of Ohio for WOOFobia™. In the weeks to come, we will be filing the non-profit paperwork for 501(c)4 status, which will allow us to do a significant amount of lobbying for better laws that protect and secure the Human-Canine Bond, and implement programs and other initiatives that celebrate it.
Previously, I spent most of the last decade involved primarily on the advocacy side of animal welfare. Being a lifelong dog-lover, when I became active I wanted to do something creative that would bring attention to an issue concerning dogs. I researched the different issues, started a video production company, River Fire Films, and began a documentary film titled, Guilty ‘Til Proven Innocent, which exposed the archaic laws called Breed Specific Legislation (BSL), which unfairly target the ownership of certain types or breeds of dog. To read more about that film, click here.
During my time in dog advocacy, I observed and noticed a few huge opportunities for improvement that could be made to be more effective and make the largest possible impact for all causes relating to dogs, that can potentially harm or disrupt the Human-Canine Bond. I also observed how the artists and creative community can send strong, thought-provoking messages in assisting social change and be the vehicle for progress.
It’s clear there are not enough resources available for this type of work. And, even though the plan for WOOFobia™ can be modified to fit a low budget and still be effective to a degree, there are costs associated with bringing the type of change we envision possible happening, especially when it’s for something that can oftentimes be overlooked to solve other world problems, too, like Global Health.
When we think of the two words “Global Health”, there are many ideas that can be thought of to play a role in leading a more quality of life for everyone who inhabit this Earth amongst us. I’m sure many of those ideas would have exorbitant costs associated with implementing the plan. Everything costs something, which makes every dollar that much more important. So, where do we start? Do we focus on clean water? Do we create plans to attack world hunger? Or, how about areas where food deserts are found, since they lack access to affordable, healthy foods? Do we concentrate on the physical health or the mental health of the masses? After all, both are of equal importance, who deserve equal attention.
While all ideas are valid and important, we feel there’s a solution that can benefit both – our physical and our mental health, in one simple answer. Dogs.
Prior to founding WOOFobia™, I had just come off from two of the worst years I had since I can remember. I was overwhelmed and overworked at my day job and other obligations I took on, so I was stressed to the gills. It was during that time I started experiencing severe anxiety and the infancy stages of depression. You never think it can happen to you, until it does and becomes a problem.
Then, I began having physical issues with my neck, shoulder and back, which I repeatedly sought medical attention for. Then, an auto accident left me with more physical complications, as well as additional mental health concerns, suffering from post concussion syndrome, which included doses of suicidal tendencies. The hits just kept on coming. My mental and physical health were deteriorating right before me at the still young age of 38, and I started to think about the final stage of my life, which included attempts at making amends with people from my past.
As a last resort, I threw away the several pharmaceutical bottles I was prescribed, and made the conscious thought that if I am going to survive, I need to take this into my own hands, and do it my way. Their way just wasn’t working.
Art was absent from my life while this all was happening. I couldn’t find the time to reserve to express my creative self, and that alone affected my well-being, since there was no outlet to rest my tired brain and just be. One cold Cleveland January afternoon, I grabbed my oldest dog, Preston, my camera, and ventured off to the metroparks to do some photography. It was incredibly therapeutic, so I decided to continue this as many days as I could. This arrangement worked well, because we would walk all over the city – at times at night – and while I was in the moment framing and capturing the scene, my dogs would watch my back. The unintended benefit was, they also got their exercise…and so do I.
There is insurmountable scientific proof that supports the many physical benefits to being around dogs. Places of work that allow employees to bring their dogs, are often more productive and happier while at work. They boost overall work morale. Just petting a dog, can lower one’s heart rate and blood pressure. Statistically, people who have dogs live longer, too. They force us to get out of the house and walk them, promoting exercise without knowing it, and they even can make us more social. This is good news especially for my fellow introverts!
For those who need assistance getting around, there are trained service dogs to help with those tasks, making life easier for those who live life with a physical disability. But, their help extends much more than that, as they also provide many formal mental benefits as well, including therapy dog work, visiting schools and hospitals. These programs can range anywhere from listening to kids read out loud to help them overcome reading challenges, to bringing smiles to ill patients in hospitals during their stay.
These miracles on four legs offer other support to individuals, like K9 officers who help protect the public, or dogs who can sniff out potential food allergy threats (i.e. peanuts). With their keen sense of smell, there’s even been cases where dogs have detected cancer successfully!
Additionally, there’s a growing number of people who are being affected by mental illness. In the year 2014, 42,773 Americans lost the internal battle with themselves and succumbed to suicide. Dogs give us purpose. A reason to wake up the next day. They say, gazing into the eyes of your dog, releases increased levels of oxytocin – the hormone that is associated with maternal bonding, trust and altruism. Both human and dog get an endorphin release off each other’s presence, making the interaction a mutually enjoyed, emotional event.
We recently made the deadline for a National Geographic contest initiative that will help solve one of three issues:
- Feeding 9 Billion
- Sustainable Planet
- Global Health
We submitted a 1-minute video to tackle Global Health, using dogs. There’s not enough time to elaborate on how, but in “Part 2” of this blog, we will discuss some of those ideas and plans. Plus, at this point in time, there’s an endless supply of homeless dogs in shelters around the U.S, who get killed for space, as well as an abundance of stray dogs roaming free in other countries, who would probably love a couch to lay on. So, this solution can potentially impact another problem being ignored.
Our idea can be easily dismissed by a biased person who is not willing to look beyond their beliefs, or someone who devalues the Human-Canine Bond and importance of dogs to our society. The fact of the matter is, there’s a case to be made that humans get more out of this relationship than dogs get from us. One thing everyone needs is a trusting and loyal friend. I am first-person proof of this statement. At my most difficult, darkest and loneliest time, my dogs felt like my only friend, which was vital for my survival.
So, when opportunity knocks, or in this case, barks, you have to open that door in hopes the world will follow your lead.
Thank you for your support!
*** Voting begins on September 1, 2017. You can vote by using the below link.
National Geographic “Chasing Genius” Video URL: http://www.natgeochasinggenius.com/video/2031