One Dog, Two Lives: Creating Mental Health Awareness
By FIlza Naveed
The silence on mental health must end, and dialogue needs to be generated in order to create solutions.
That is exactly what Grace Boyd’s goal is: to create conversation, arouse discussion, and assist members of the community who may suffer from mental health disorders.
The extremely talented and determined thirteen year old, who lives in the east end of Kingston, has started her own charity organization, with the help of her mother and stepmother, called One Dog, Two Lives.
Boyd suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Panic Attack Disorder (PAD) as well as depression, but is academically gifted and determined to find a way to lead a normal life in order to fulfill her dreams, and help others achieve them too.
“I came up with the idea for this charity while surfing the internet. I stumbled across a similar online charity that used service dogs to assist people with mental health issues. I was determined to find a way to alleviate the suffering from these disorders for myself, as well as help other people in the community,” said Boyd, who is extremely well-spoken, beyond her years.
Boyd suggested the idea to her mother and stepmother who were very supportive of the venture and knew that she was very capable of putting this initiative together.
She set about creating the website and spreading awareness of the charity through social media, as well as through the support of 4 Paws Academy in Kingston, which provides service dogs to assist people with mental health problems.
Boyd’s family has set up donation jars all across Kingston East. They have also been going into different areas, and putting up flyers with their names and logo to educate people about their initiative.
“I created One Dog, Two Lives with two goals in mind.
Firstly, I am in need of funding for a service dog, so I want to reach out to my community for assistance.
Once I have my funding finished, I plan on returning the favour by helping every local person in need of financial help for a service dog, receive it,” she says.
The minimum price for a service dog starts at $14,000, and can be as high as $18,000, which is not something that just any family can easily afford.
Boyd has always been an animal lover, and currently owns three horses, and a few dogs, and has always found animals to have special healing powers.
“Animals have really helped me out during hard times. They love people, they are dedicated, and they understand how we work,” she said.
Boyd is definitely not off the mark in her belief about the healing powers of animals.
Many institutions have used Psychiatric Service Dogs to assist people with mental health problems, such as Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Acute and General Anxiety Disorders, Panic Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and Autism Spectrum Disorders.
As stated by the Canadian Service Dog Foundation, a service dog can be described as: “Any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability… The work or tasks performed by a service dog must be directly related to the handler’s disability.”
According to Boyd’s website, 1 in every 3 people suffer from a mental health disorder.
Many of these are minimal and manageable. However, for the ones who are on multiple medications, have many diagnoses and minimal ways to thrive, a service dog may be for them.
Boyd has done extensive research on service dogs, and claims that they are highly trained, and are dedicated to helping out people.
“They help people by providing an outlet for stress. There is actually a long history of service dogs, and they have been used extensively to alleviate the suffering of people who have experienced Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Autism,” she said.
Boyd is aware of the stigma surrounding mental health, but firmly believes that engaging in dialogue about such issues, and educating people is the only way to bring about solutions.
“I have been going through Obsessive Compulsive Disorder for as long as I can remember. I have a relative who suffers from it as well and my doctor believes that since OCD is genetic, I’ve probably had it since I was born. When I was nine years old, I became depressed, and then I had anxiety come into the picture as well, and then the panic attacks started,” she said.
She also said that although having her horses and dogs around has been an immense relief to her during rocky times, they are not there to help her out if she has a panic attack at school.
“That is where a Psychiatric Service Dog would be highly beneficial in helping me lead a normal life. PSDs spend over 95% of their time with their owners. If I happen to have a panic attack at school, I would have my service dog right next to me to help me. We have a student in our school who suffers from autism and has a service dog. They really help,” she said.
One Dog, Two Lives is run by Grace Boyd, her mother, who is the parent representative, as well as Boyd’s stepmom, who assists as the secretary.
They are currently looking for corporate sponsors and Boyd is optimistic that the charity will receive support and will be able to help other people find a service dog as well.
For more information on Grace Boyd’s initiative, visit http://1dog2liveskingston.weebly.com/