Our Story

Welcome.  Alicia Smith here with my trusted side-kick Hunka, Hunka Burning Love more casually known as Hunk or Hunka.  I’ve often said, I feel that every woman deserves a Hunk and he’s mine. BTW – At the shelter they named him Chunk.  My immediate thought was, that between my middle cat and I, we could be called Chunk as well, but I didn’t much appreciate it!  When I was trying to come up with another name I came up with Hunk and then immediately said, he’s a Hunka Hunka Burning Love…and he is!

I’ve had a Siamese or Siamese-ish cats, since the age of five.  Currently I have three – HeyBearcat, WuMan and Painter.  I guarantee you that they thought I had lost my mind when I brought 105 pound Hunka  home from the shelter.  Thanks to the support of our veterinarian Hunka now weighs a healthy 75 pounds and is an extremely tall dog at 29.5 inches.

Prior to September 2006, I’d never had, or even been responsible for taking care of, a dog, until I adopted Hunka.  I knew that I wanted a big goofy dog, and with that I felt responsible for making certain that he was also a well behaved dog.  We spent an entire year in weekend training classes, going through Beginning, Intermediate, Advanced, Rally classes.  At the end of that year Hunka and I took a class to help prepare us for the AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) designation which we completed in the fall of 2007.

The following weekend I took the handler training offered by Intermountain Therapy Animals (ITA) and that Sunday Hunka and I completed and passed their registration process!  We began volunteering weekly at the local hospital.  We would visit patients who had to come to the Dialysis Center or the Cancer Center.  Patients spend a lot of time sitting through their treatments, so a visit from a dog was often a welcome distraction.  By invitation, we also stopped to visit in several offices as well as the Laboratory.

When I heard that the Montana Special Olympics were coming to Bozeman for three years running, I contacted them and was able to arrange for a number of other Intermountain Therapy Animals (ITA) teams to be at the Spacial Olympics.  It was so rewarding to be there for the Athletes, Coaches, family members and friend.  Hunka and I were only able to volunteer the first year but we are so glad that we didi.  The Special Olympics is a wonderful organization and we, as a community, were honored to be involved.

I continued to coordinate the next two years of Special Olympics in Bozeman, but by the time the 2nd year rolled around my medical condition had worsened.  After talking with my primary physician and my therapist it was recommended that I consider a Service Dog to help me on a daily basis.  After months of research I found the Psychiatric Service Dog Society and was able to speak to its founder, Joan Esnayra,  During that conversation I knew I had finally found THE SOURCE for accurate and honest information about partnering with a Service Dog and all that it entails.  I cannot thank Joan and her superb list of moderators for all they have done.  This is always the first source I recommend to any one considering the use of a Psychiatric Service Dog.

The Psychiatric Service Dog Society also has moderated online groups available to Mental Health Consumers; there is a general list, a Veteran’s list and a Female Veteran’s list.  These list are safe places to ask questions about life with a service dog and the ways in which your life will be changed when partnering with a service dog.  They also offer a listserve for Providers of Mental Health Services.

Recently I have started educating Mental Health groups about the use of animals as a supplemental piece in Mental Health Recovery.  It is a fascinating process to see the animal/human bond in action.  But, it is also a topic that brings with it a lot of misconceptions, rumors and just plain bad information.  My goal with this website is to help people know where to go for answers – see our Resources page – and to help dispel the rumors and bad info by and educating people with the truth.

Hunka and I are available to speak to your group about the important role that animals can provide in recovery.  For more information visit our Seminars page.

May your life be as enhanced as mine through the love and support of an animal.

 

Alicia Smith, Service Dog Handler

Hunka, Hunka Burning Love – CGC, PAT, Service Dog and winner of the Shadow Award through ITA.

HeyBearcat, WuMan and Painter – cats who “own” the house and allow Hunka and I to visit!

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