A Little Help From My Friend
With her Cocker Spaniel’s love and patience, a woman overcomes her paralyzing anxiety.
By Danielle M.
In September 2001, I received the greatest gift in the world: a guardian angel. His name was Sprinkles, and he was an American Cocker Spaniel. Originally, Sprinkles belonged to my cousin Allyson, but after my family saw how he brought me to life, Allyson made me the deal of a lifetime.
When I was in high school, I was diagnosed with severe social anxiety. It had gotten to the point where I was afraid to go out in public and do anything. This included activities most people take for granted, including shopping and attending school. As time went on, my social anxiety became increasingly worse, and I was having constant panic attacks. This led to me being home schooled. My family did everything to help me, including encouraging me to go out and reassuring me things would be fine. They became worried about the quality of life I would have in the future.
One night, my aunt Kim called me to ask if I could help her and Allyson train dogs at a dog class. I agreed. This is when I first met Sprinkles. I instantly fell in love with the cute Cocker Spaniel, and I told Allyson that I was interested in working with Sprinkles. She agreed to teach me how to train him, but Sprinkles and I needed to get to know each other better first.
We made plans for Sprinkles to spend the night with me. On that night, we immediately became attached. My parents saw that Sprinkles made me happier than I had been in a long time.
I begged Allyson to let me keep Sprinkles. She agreed to let me keep him, but only under the condition that I would participate in 4H and compete in American Kennel Club dog shows with him. Having social anxiety, the thought of doing something like this in front of an audience scared me to death. However, my fears were overpowered by the love and companionship of that black-and-white Cocker Spaniel.
I joined 4H and the AKC, where over the course of the next few months, I learned how to show a dog. Sprinkles became my dog and my best friend.
The first time we entered the show ring, I thought I was going to pass out. Having Sprinkles by my side gave me a sense of confidence and helped me realize I had nothing to fear. That day, we went on to finish in second place. This was just the first of many great days in the show ring.
I can’t thank Sprinkles enough for changing my life. I overcame my social anxiety and resumed living a normal, fun and productive life. My cure was not in medication or therapy, but in the form of a beautiful Cocker Spaniel with a heart of gold.
Today, I have no social anxiety at all. I work full-time at a school with disabled children. I am also certified as a dog groomer and volunteer at the local SPCA.
Sprinkles passed away in September 2011, exactly 10 years after he came into my life. I live life to the fullest every day thanks to him. I will never forget my Cocker Spaniel guardian angel.
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