A Jack Russell terrier mix is helping a Windsor woman overcome a whole lot more than the loss of the faithful horse he replaced.
Hailey Trealout, 21, has suffered from anxiety and depression since she was nine.
Even though she's been a pageant winner and an accomplished journalist, there are days when her anxiety is such a burden, she can't leave the house.
For about 10 years she found solace in her horse, Red, who lived at her grandparents' house. But she lost him earlier this year.
"When he died in February I was a wreck. I had a really bad meltdown," Trealout said.
Her boyfriend Rick Dawes urged her to seek counselling, which led to her getting her dog, which, as a tribute to her horse, she named Otis Redding.
Now Otis takes her almost everywhere and she feels confident.
"Now I have that companionship that I only had when I went to my grandparents' house, except now I have it 24/ 7," Trealout said.
Trealout said Otis is "getting me out of bed; getting me to go places that maybe I didn't feel like going or maybe I didn't feel worthy of being a part of."
Dawes also notices a difference.
"I know what he does for her and how he gives her relief. So at least if she's got the dog with her, I know she's got somebody to keep her company," said Dawes, who doesn't live with Trealout.
Trealout started a group called True Reflections last year to help others overcome their anxieties. The group has also been therapeutic for her.
"I get to help myself and I get to learn things about people that makes them uncomfortable and I find ways that I can help them," she said.
'Dogs can have an impact'
Trealout's findings don't appear to be anecdotal. Therapy dogs have often been praised for their abilities.
Research on adults who have a pet dogs suggest the companion animals are associated with better health, such as improved physical activity and mental health.
Last month, researchers in Saskatchewan reported that regular visits with a therapy dog can improve a person's mental health and well-being. The team went to three addictions and mental health treatment sites in the Saskatoon Health Region and spent six months at each one.
"The dogs can have an impact on an individual's healing journey in a multitude of ways, from providing comfort through to increasing therapeutic alliances with service providers," researcher Colleen Dell from the University of Saskatchewan said in a news release.
Training to be service dog
Otis' favourite snack is ice cubes, and he loves people.
But he still needs some training to become a certified service dog. Trealout is currently giving him the training he needs.
She is also continuing her therapy. She knows Otis won't be here forever so she's looking forward to a day when she can do things on her own.
"I'm also working very closely with my doctor to figure out the best route to take ... so I'm hoping Otis gets me on the right track," she said.