For those who suffer from anxiety, life’s daily tasks can seem impossible. University student Alexis Bohmer says her first memory was of a panic attack, and has spent years struggling to cope.
Through the help of her doctors and family, Bohmer decided to register for a therapy dog.
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“It’s funny, people say to me, ‘you know, a puppy is a lot of work,’ and I laugh,” Bohmer says. “Getting out of bed is a lot of work for me.”
Bohmer is no stranger to extreme anxiety and severe panic attacks, but has always had a hard time explaining her illness to others.
“I used to say, ‘it would be so easy if I had a broken leg,’ because then people would understand why I couldn’t go grocery shopping by myself.”
Bohmer’s anxiety manifests itself in many ways, and she cannot go to the grocery store alone without triggering a severe panic attack.
Earlier this year, Bohmer suffered another setback when she was assaulted, causing her anxiety to worsen.
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“Around January of this year, I just didn’t feel like I had anything to live for. I had had so many things thrown my way,” Bohmer says. “It just sort of felt like my life halted, things stopped mattering to me.”
Instead of give up, Bohmer took action, and found an organization called Assistance Dogs for All, which teaches individuals to train their own service dogs. Bohmer made the decision to train her own therapy dog because she wanted to form a close bond with her companion from the beginning.
“It’s the chance for a whole new beginning for me.”
Bohmer has already started training her eight-week-old German Shepherd-Labrador cross, Atticus, and hopes to have him service-ready by eight months.
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“I want to be able to go grocery shopping,” Bohmer said. “It sounds so silly, but it’s the thought of that is so surreal right now because it doesn’t happen.”
Atticus will be trained to help Alexis navigate panic attacks, and stressful situations.
“If the house is dark, he can go through the house before I go in, turn on all the lights, make sure no one is there. If someone is there, he’ll bark.”
As a companion, and a protector, Atticus has his work cut out for him, but with a dog by her side Alexis says she has a new lease on life.
“If there’s a day when I want to stay in my room and not get out of bed… I have to because I have to let my dog out,” Bohmer said. “He also knows that on those days it’s his job to get me out of bed.”
Bohmer, who is studying to become a teacher, has set up a GoFundMe page to help with vet bills, food, and training for Atticus.