Mental Health Wrapped in an Animal Tale
21 years ago David’s life changed most unexpectedly. Falling in love with a coworker proved to be the beginning of an extraordinary journey, one that would include the formation of a nationally recognized animal sanctuary. The sanctuary was home to as many as 100 animals at any one time, all of whom were either advanced in years, had special needs, or were at the end of their life.
While the sanctuary no longer operates, David keeps the memory of the animals alive by sharing their stories in his speeches, training, and workshops. David has found the subject of mental illness, and the hope for mental health is more approachable, colorful and relatable when wrapped in an animal tale.
Just some of the stories David uses in his presentations and workshops.
The story of Winston, a senior Boston Terrier who suffered as bait in a dog fighting ring, is used to paint a clear picture of what mental illness looks and feels like, and to illustrate the fact mental illness is not the fault of the person who suffers. And, Winston’s subsequent healing and the details of how he flourished is shared to remind us that a soul can be revitalized.
The story of Homer, a middle-aged Pot Belly Pig who was held captive in a small, filthy cage, and subjected to daily abuse, is used to illustrate how damaging a negative environment and traumatic experiences can be, and how they often leave a soul in the dangerous space of hopelessness. But Homer’s later revival and his newfound silly, goofy, and delightful ways are shared to show what’s possible when a soul becomes connected with others and goes from hopeless to “hope-filled.”
The story of Adia, an African Goose who upon arrival at the sanctuary jumped in the bathtub-sized water trough, instead of a large pond, is used to show how curiosity is the most direct path to understanding others. In turn, Adia’s eventual foray into the pond is shared to remind us of what’s possible when we offer our acceptance and support, not our advice to someone in need.
The story of Ferdi, a towering six-foot steer, who had the habit of sneaking out of the fenced pasture, and then peering in the bedroom windows of a neighbor’s home, is told to remind us that even recognizable things can scare a person. But, with a bucket of sweet grain, Ferdi could be easily maneuvered, and put back where he belonged. In turn, with our bucket of sweet grain (acceptance, kindness, patience, love, and understanding), we can help move a person’s fear to a place where it can be corralled and do no harm.