This is my service dog Kalle. He is one year old and he is still to be trained. I do the training under the supervision of my dog trainer. While my life “before Kalle” was often a struggle to get up or even go outside-especially at the weekends I had to become more self-organized and self-disciplined. And here is the secret: I wouldn’t have done it just for myself. I believe that sometimes it is easier to do these things for another being than for oneself. Yet when Kalle is barking at the moon, old neighbours or even trash cans I frankly do not know who is helping whom here J. It seems that I have even more work on my hands and that the dog is “slow on the uptake” when “lessons” are over and we are outside. But this is not so: Like me he is distracted by millions of smells, noises and movements. And while he can bring things to me while we are in my flat he lets them fall down outside and completely forgets about them J.

Morrie Schwarz[1] once said “As a child and when you get old you need people to help you. But here is the secret: You also need people in between.” That this is more than true I realized when Kalle ran away one day: All my neighbours went in search for him. We found him and got him home safely. Later that evening I understood that Kalle had already “helped” me: Our daily walks had connected me in a positive way with my neighbours. His constant joy when he could “sniff the world outside” had pushed me out of my self-indulged isolation in my flat and the feeling that everything outside is “just too overwhelming”. Without realizing it I had looked over my wall of fear and depression and let go of the past. And even now when I have “reached” the week-end and sleep a lot because I am exhausted and overstimulated my little companion is there with me “behind that wall”. And here is what I wanted to share with you: Even when you feel it is useless and you are only giving-the animals will give it back to you. When Kalle licks my hands comfortingly or sits behind me in the queue of the supermarket to “protect” me I know that all the effort has been worth it.

[1] Albom, Mitch, Tuesdays with Morrie, New York 1997.

Written by Renate Weber