Pet Companion for TBI Recovery: Michael Part Eleven
Michael talks about how important his pet companion, his dog Little Bit, was during his recovery from traumatic brain injury.
Talk to me a bit more about what your parents did in terms of that first year after you got out of there, of the nursing home in terms of helping you.
The first thing they did, and that was right away, when I would blow up they would just get away. And usually when I blew up I was, I don’t know I blew up over everything. I had a hard time with anger issues. I still have a little problem now but not as bad.
Like if I was upstairs in my room, which I spent a lot of time in, and I blew up for some reason and we didn’t know what it was my parents could hear me cursing, stomping. I had a few things I’ve just, like I had a filing cabinet, now it’s not there because I beat it up so much because of my anger issues, I couldn’t deal with it. That actually the only one that could deal with me, and he’s my best friend during it all was my dog, Little Bit.
Talk to me more about your dog, your pet companion.
Well, the funny thing about it is he was around me 24/7, he was always with me.
Was your pet companion around you before you’re hurt as well?
Well actually after I got hurt. Before I got hurt he was mostly my parents’ dog. But afterwards he really involved himself, he was always around me. The funny thing is, one time you couldn’t close the door to my room because he couldn’t, because I slept, when I’m out, I was out. I didn’t have dreams or anything, but you couldn’t wake me or anything.
And you had to leave the door open so he could run over to my mom and wake my mom up to go to the bathroom. Well, she closed the door one time and he couldn’t get out to go to the bathroom; guess what I found in my bed the next morning? And half of it was on me.
What’s your pet companion’s name?
It was Little Bit. He’s, he’s gone now, my parents had to put him down.
What kind of a dog was Little Bit?
He was a Cockapoo.
Do you know how old he was when you got hurt?
When he, um, when we put him down he was about 12, no he was about 14. That was in either 2003 or 2004.
So he was a pretty young pet companion when you got hurt?
What did you and your pet companion do? What did he do to help you?
I would have one of those anger moments, and finally I would calm down and he was right there, you know, he would nuzzle up to me and help me get calm. He was the reason why I would get outside and walk because I would take him for a walk and that was good for me to get exercise. Even though I was very slow at it I would take him out and go for a walk and he was also a great chick magnet.
He didn’t interrupt your conversation much?
No. I do that myself, I get these thoughts that come. But he was just there for me, every reason he was on my lap, you know. My dad looked up information about seizures and stuff online and dogs can pick them up first. When you’re getting ready to have the seizure your brain emits a chemical that smells like oranges and a lot of dogs can pick that up. So when I would have one of my staring fits and he was around he was the first one to either snap me out of it or when I was snapped out of it to be right around me.
What would your pet companion do to snap you out of it?
He would either bump himself into me trying to get me to pet him or he would lick my arm to get me to pet him.
Did your pet companion ever warn you that you were going to have one?
I don’t know. Maybe he was.
Have you had a pet companion since?
I have a cat now, I’ve had a total of five cats.
How do the cats, your pet companion’s do in terms of keeping you calm?
Lucy, the one I have now does a great job.
What does she do?
She likes to be around me all the time. If I’m sitting there watching TV she’s usually on my lap wanting me to pet her. If I’m in bed going to sleep, she’s usually on my chest wanting me to pet her and, um, so she’s become a real big help with that.
I know your memory is a little difficult for this period, but I’d like you to go back and just sort of imagine that it’s a year, a few months before you went back to Oshkosh to go back to college and Little Bit’s in your life, just kind of think about that a minute and tell me what it’s like to have him there when you’re upset.
Little Bit became my best friend. During this time, I lost a lot of friends because they couldn’t deal with me, they didn’t know what was going on with me, it’s hard to explain. But when I would get upset or angry and he was around he’d help calm me down. He would – He was always – He was there. And he made sure that I knew it and I made sure he knew that I was always around. And he was a great asset to me. I think that’s one of the reasons was when I left to go back to school he had a hard time with it.
Did you have a hard time leaving your pet companion Little Bit?
Very much so.
Did you think about getting your own dog?
I was living in Stewart Hall at the University of Oshkosh, or as they call it, the nursing home because it’s all students 21 and over and I was living there and I never, for one I never came out of my room. I didn’t participate in a lot of things. I mean my girlfriend at the time, she was basically the only friend, and she introduced me to everybody that she had as friends, okay? And if I could have had a dog at Stewart, I would have had one.
By Attorney Gordon Johnson