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Coping with Traumatic Events: One Student’s Opinion

One+of+the+LCC+comfort+dogs+brought+onto+the+Faith+campus+after+the+October+1st+shooting.
One of the LCC comfort dogs brought onto the Faith campus after the October 1st shooting.

One of the LCC comfort dogs brought onto the Faith campus after the October 1st shooting.

Marie Langer

Marie Langer

One of the LCC comfort dogs brought onto the Faith campus after the October 1st shooting.

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When somebody experiences a trauma, it is not uncommon for them to feel lost, alone, or helpless. However, there are a few things that can help relieve those feelings and help them find a happy place. For me, a survivor of the Las Vegas shooting, I found my therapy in spending time with friends and family, but most importantly, animals.

I never realized how much animals would be able to turn my frown upside down in a matter of minutes. On October 3rd, just two days after the shooting took place, I was having a horrific day at school. My head was in a different place; I felt like I didn’t belong anymore. Distraught, I spent my morning in and out of class crying and sitting in the counselor’s office thinking that nothing could help me.

Those feelings persisted until the counselor I was with, Mrs. Burns, received a text saying that comfort dogs were waiting outside of the front office. When approached with why she brought in the dogs that day, Mrs. Burns said, “Life can be really hard and really scary. God has gifted us with animals to bring us joy. If petting a dog makes life a little less hard and a little less scary, than we should have a dog to pet.

When she asked me if I wanted to go meet the dogs with her, I instantly answered yes. From that moment on, I spent the rest of my day sitting on the ground petting these soft golden retrievers; particularly Lois and Jacob who were my favorite. For the first time in days, I felt happiness and comfort. Here I was, reminded that I was still capable of feeling happy and that the dark feelings I felt trapped by were temporary.

Later in the school day, I took a few of the dogs and their handlers around to different classrooms, so other students could experience the joy I did from seeing and spending time with these dogs. During this time, I saw the dogs have the same effects on others as they did on me; every student smiled cheek to cheek and could not get enough of them. It brought me a sense of contentment to see others so happy, not by something they saw on their phones or by the new shirt that they just ordered, but instead by something so real, pure, and simple; dogs.

As a competitive equestrian, riding horses has always been a therapeutic way for me to escape reality and have fun. However, I never realized the extent of how helpful spending time with horses was for my overall well-being until after the shooting, where everyday was the hardest day of my life. After trying to make it through a full day of  school, sometimes completing it and sometimes not, I would drive down to the barn, spend time with my horse named Penn, and just ride. The presence of Penn alone automatically soothed my stressed and worried mind. It brought me to a different place that became so distant and rare to me– a happy place. While there is not a huge amount of scientific research, it is proven that petting animals lowers blood pressure and helps stop the release of cortisol, the stress hormone, according to Mrs. Burns. When going through therapy, it can be difficult to look someone in the eye and talk to them about your problems, which is why some people color in coloring books. Petting an animal has the same effect as coloring; you can talk about anything while still being able to focus your attention on something else. For me, whether riding Penn around the arena, feeding him treats, or just petting his strong, furry neck, I always feel overwhelmed with a sense of relief that nothing else could top.

We all have our tough days, regardless of the cause, we all want tools to help us cope, carry on, and return to a state of happiness. You can find that in something that brings you unconditional comfort and love. While I found my therapy in spending time with animals, my best friend, Summer Stadtlander, who also survived the Las Vegas shooting, finds her comfort in spending time with people she enjoys and through watching movies. There are all different things people can find therapy in, I encourage you to try something new and down to earth to find yours.

 

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Coping with Traumatic Events: One Student’s Opinion