Mit Assistenzhund zurück ins Leben – Die Geschichte von Richard und Abby

Richard und Abby im Schnee Foto Vota /
Foto: Vita

Ich bin immer wieder beeindruckt, wie sehr Tiere Menschen helfen können. Bei Vita habe ich Richard kennengelernt, einen ehemaligen US-Soldaten. Seine Geschichte hat mich zutiefst bewegt: Aufgrund schlimmster Erfahrungen im Irak-Krieg lebte Richard in ständiger Angst vor Gefahr. 5 Jahre hatte er das Haus nicht verlassen. Konnte es einfach nicht. Weil er Menschen nicht mehr vertraute. Diagnose: Posttraumatische Belastungsstörung. Panik-Attacken.

Und dann kam Abby…

Richard Soldat

Foto: Richard Rice Privatarchiv

Without Abby I am not sure where I would be righte now. I was in a very dark place without her. I lived in a world of fear and isolation and I was not just isolating myself but my wife and child as well. Having Abby in my life changed it drastically. She gave not only myself a second chance at life, but gave a wife back her husband, a child back to his father and made our family whole again. I cannot thank Abby or VITA enough for the life I have again.

Richard Rice, Ehefrau Verena, Sohn Noah & Labrador-Hündin Abby / Foto: Richard Rosicka

Wie hat Abby Dir denn geholfen?

I relearned through Abby how to trust, feel and love again. Abby has taught, and is still teaching me to be more open and relaxed and best of all she helped me come out of Isolation and venture out into the world again. I am able to do this because she takes care of me. She is always by my side and alerts me to anything strange that I could potentially perceive as danger. She keeps me grounded and focused.
Before Abby, If I left the house I was constantly looking for danger, I could not ever stay in the present moment and would find myself continually looking around because every time I heard or saw something new I would be on guard and it would pull my attention away. I never knew If the danger was real or just a figment of my imagination so I would panic and retreat back into my home. With Abby I am able to see the world threw a new set of eyes and I trust her fully to tell me when a situation is dangerous or not.

Geht es Dir inzwischen besser?

Even today I still cannot trust myself. Nightmares are just one example of this. I used to wake up in the middle of the night in panic, laying in bed paralyzed with fear the whole time listening out for any sounds of intruders or inkling that something could go wrong. Now When I wake up all I have to do is look at Abby next to me and I can calm down immediately because I know that if something is wrong she would alert me to it long before I would ever be able to realize something was amiss. Abby does so much for me to give me the quality of Life I have now. The biggest task is that she helps me with this, that she can bring me out of a panic attack and because of her I no longer have to take medication.

Foto: Vita

Was macht Abby denn genau, wenn Du eine Panikattacke bekommst?

Abby and myself have become so close with another that she can sense when I am having a panic attack, or when I am feeling nervous. She sees, smells, feels the change in me and is at my side and is there for me. I am able to give her the command „Anschauen“ and she stares into my eyes and I back into her’s and I am able to loose myself in her. I can block out the rest of the world, and for these moments it is just me and her, nothing else exists or matters and I feel a sense of calm come over me. She does this for me 100 percent of the time without question and for as long as I need. I am very grateful to her for that.

Vita Charity Gala 2015 Richard Rice & Abbey Foto Martin Loos /

Foto: Martin Loos

Abby wurde vom Verein Vita Assistenzhunde ausgebildet. Und dort habt Ihr als Team zusammen gefunden…

What really helped bringing me and Abby together was the „Kreidler Method“. And a part of that method is the belief that a happy dog makes for a happy team, and that within a team, a dog is a reflection of the owner. When a person is unsure or anxious, it shows on the dog and the dog can become unsure and nervous as well. Likewise when a person is happy and confident, the dog mirrors that and becomes happy and confident.
When training with our dogs we keep that in the back of our heads. For me that concept was essential in our development as a team and what helped our bond grow. In the beginning it was a hard lesson. I had to learn. I had to change everything I had become. I had to re-learn how to be more open and inviting to Abby, relearn how to give a command in a friendly way, and when something was not working between us, (for example If I called Abby to me and she came in a hesitant way or stopped midway) I learned to quickly assess the situation in a positive way.
I would always ask myself, why is Abby behaving like this, and the first thing I would do is look at her body. Maybe she became distracted because someone was approaching behind me or she had seen an animal, maybe she smelled a particular scent in the air that caught her interest.
The next question would be, how am I behaving that is making Abby react this way. Maybe my body language is closed off and uninviting, or I am coaxing her to me in a tone that is making her feel uneasy? And lastly how can I make the situation better for me and her?
Having Abby around me 24 hours of the day and always handling her in this positive way really tought her who I was, and brought us together in a way where she could know how to, and care enough about me to be by my side and endure the pain that I felt inside even though it made her uncomfortable as well.

Wie sieht Dein Alltag mit Abby aus?

Maybe a typical day would be waking up quite early in the morning while my wife and son are asleep so I can take Abby out before getting my son ready for school.
After dropping my son of at school, Abby and I will head off to the forest were she can run and be free. We might stop and make some Dummy work, train some basics, or play some games where I would loose something of mine so she can find it. It is a really enjoyable time for the both of us because even knowing she is free and running off the Leine, she is still with me. Always making sure I am in her sight and when there is someone approaching that I cannot see, she gives a quick bark to let me know and comes to my side.
Or maybe we are walking and we hear a strange noise she will turn to it and raise her paw letting me know its just an animal and we can continue on our journey together. After that we might go home and she will lay in her bed in the living room as I am doing house work or if I go to the bedroom she will follow so she can be in the room with me while I read a book or check my mail. No matter what the day brings, I have to go downtown, I have a Dr.’s appointment, or maybe I want to go to the Schwimmbad or Kino with my Family. She is always with me, always there for me.
We still train together and will never stop training together. We are both constantly changing and growing together and the training that we do together is part of that process.

Abby /

Vielen Dank, lieber Richard, dass Du so offen über dein Leben gesprochen hast. Ich bin sicher: Deine Geschichte macht vielen Menschen Mut. Dir, deiner Familie und natürlich Abby alles Gute!

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