Minnesota-based K9s From Carrie is a leading nonprofit in the United States to shine light on mental health awareness through education and the pairing of individuals with dogs to help manage mental illness and reduce suicide. We believe people of all ages and backgrounds suffering from mental illness deserve respect and support rather than embarrassment and shame.
Our primary objective is to provide support to people in mental health crisis through "Furry Therapy," which we define as dogs who are obedience and emotional support trained.
We do this by 1) pairing a physically and emotionally sound dog with individuals as well as sponsoring obedience and emotional therapy training to that dog, and by 2) sponsoring obedience and emotional therapy training for an existing dog belonging to an individual or family.
K9s From Carrie also promotes mental health and suicide prevention awareness through events and speaking engagements.
Carrie was our daughter, sister and niece. At just 12 years old she was sexually assaulted, which led to her suffering from PTSD, depression, and anxiety. Throughout the last four years of her life, Carrie spent much of her time in hospitals and various mental health facilities. There were times the therapies were brief and other times when she was admitted for up to six months. Some of the facilities were our home away from home, others limited visits from family. One year Carrie spent more time in facilities than she did at home. And, when she was home she was attending outpatient therapies over three days a week.
Along with the severe depression, frequent nightmares, flashbacks, and anxiety, Carrie made several attempts at suicide. She frequently performed self-injury (cutting) on herself. This dangerous behavior
led to voluminous amounts of prescription drugs, all of which had very unpleasant side effects.
In November 2012, we made the decision to discontinue the hospitalizations and in-patient treatments, in lieu of home treatment, as her condition was worsening. Bonnie resigned from her job and stayed home with Carrie full-time while she was placed on home bound school status. Most days were spent taking Carrie to many therapy appointments, managing her medications, working with the doctors on treatments, and teaching her home bound lesson plans. It was a long road.
By September of 2013 Carrie’s condition had improved so much that she was able to return to school part-time. By the end of the year, she was in school full-time and had reached many milestones including getting her driver’s license, a first job, new friends.
Although Carrie seemed to be improving, the struggle became too great for her. On September 7th, 2014, Carrie lost her very difficult battle with depression and passed away from suicide.
Throughout the last couple of years, there were numerous things Carrie participated in that were beneficial to her treatment: music lessons, art, working with special needs children, and animal therapy. We eventually decided it was time to get a dog for our family, hoping it would be instrumental in Carrie’s improvement. We cannot begin to describe what this did, not only for Carrie, but for all of us.
A handful of things and people kept Carrie with us for as long as she was. One of those things was our big red lab Scout. He alerted us when she was struggling. He cuddled and kissed her until she came through a panic or flashback episode.
We strongly feel there are changes that need to be made in the treatment of mental health. It should not be silenced or swept under the rug. We will continue to do what we can to fight that big monster. In the mean time, we would like to give others what was given to us: The love of a dog.
~ Bonnie, Tom, Allison and Kelli