Overcoming Trauma: The Healing Power of a Furry
Overcoming Trauma-The haunting echoes of a tragic school shooting can reverberate long after the incident, affecting survivors in profound ways. Alexis Hobson, a high school student at Oxford High School near Detroit, found herself grappling with fear and trauma after a fellow student unleashed a torrent of bullets, leaving four classmates and a teacher dead, and six others wounded. In the aftermath of the 2021 tragedy, Alexis faced the daunting challenge of returning to a campus tainted by violence. This article explores Alexis’s journey of overcoming her fears with the help of an unlikely ally—a four-legged, furry companion named Oxford.
Overcoming Trauma-The Aftermath of Tragedy:
Overcoming Trauma-Oxford High School, like many others, faced the aftermath of a school shooting. Classes were canceled for a while, but unlike some institutions that remained closed or were torn down after similar incidents, Oxford reopened its doors just weeks after the nightmare. The returning students, still grappling with trauma, were met with heightened security measures, including the presence of extra police. However, there was another support system in place—a pack of comfort dogs trained to assist students in dealing with the emotional aftermath of the tragedy.
Overcoming Trauma-Sheriff Michael Bouchard, recognizing the growing concerns around anxiety and mental health, had initiated a comfort dog program before the COVID-19 pandemic in Michigan. Unlike traditional police dogs, these were smaller, more approachable breeds, specifically silky, wide-eyed cavalier spaniels. The impact of these comfort dogs was profound, providing emotional support to individuals facing distress and helping to alleviate fear. The program grew, with 13 dogs, including one named in honor of the local high school.
Overcoming Trauma-The Healing Power of Comfort Dogs:
As Oxford High School reopened, the comfort dogs played a crucial role in helping students reintegrate into the school environment. Sheriff Bouchard recounted instances where the dogs, such as Max, absorbed the emotional impact and facilitated a sense of comfort among the students. These furry companions became an integral part of the Oakland County community, recognized by both students and residents alike.
Overcoming Trauma-Alexis Hobson’s Struggle:
For Alexis Hobson, the return to school proved to be a daunting challenge. Despite the presence of comfort dogs and heightened security, her hypervigilance and fight-or-flight instincts hindered her ability to spend full days at school. Her fear of potential danger, triggered by any reminder of the traumatic event, led her to switch to online school temporarily.
The Role of Oxford:
Amidst this struggle, Alexis found solace in Oxford, a member of the comfort dog pack. Oxford, a wiggly and excited companion, became a source of comfort and support for Alexis. The routine of one-on-one walks with Oxford on the school campus became a transformative experience for Alexis. Oxford’s playful antics, combined with his comforting presence, allowed Alexis to gradually overcome her fears and anxiety.
The Healing Process:
The unique aspect of therapy dogs, as Alexis emphasized, lies in the absence of words. Oxford provided a silent but profound source of comfort for Alexis, allowing her to simply be herself without the need to verbalize her trauma. The responsibility of spending mornings with Oxford became a motivating factor for Alexis, propelling her to commit to the routine.
Piece by piece, the daily walks with Oxford sparked a change in Alexis’s perception of school. From the “girl who couldn’t go back” to the “girl with the dog,” Alexis gradually reclaimed her love for being at school. The routine, coupled with Oxford’s companionship, provided the peace she needed to return to in-person classes.
A Bright Future:
Now attending school full-time in person, Alexis has become a symbol of resilience and strength. While there are still challenging days, she can now face the school environment without the paralyzing fear that once gripped her. Alexis looks ahead to her future, with dreams of attending art school and engaging in creative pursuits. Oxford remains a constant presence in her life, offering both comfort and strength.
Alexis Hobson’s journey exemplifies the profound impact that a furry companion, in the form of a comfort dog, can have on overcoming trauma. The story of Alexis and Oxford highlights the therapeutic power of animals in providing silent support and comfort during difficult times. As schools grapple with the aftermath of tragic events, integrating such programs can contribute to the healing process and help students like Alexis reclaim a sense of normalcy and joy in their educational journey.