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People & Pets

Flash for mental health

11/2/2022

The Flash is a sci-fi superhero who is a courageous character in comic book life.

Flash is also a German shepherd owned by Eleanor Vestal — and he is her own personal superhero that makes her life better.

Vestal obtained Flash as a puppy three years ago. She had just moved into her own apartment and was feeling lonely and depressed.

“I got him for mental health. I’d struggled with anxiety and depression, and he’s really helped,” she reflected.

Prior to getting Flash, she researched dog breeds. She’d loved German shepherds, although she never had any pets as a child. She said she likes that they are reliable.

“They are very protective and loyal. Living alone — as a young woman — he’s very protective and a good guard dog.”

Vestal knows that some German shepherd breeds are frequently trained as military and police dogs. She dispelled a misconception that the breed is always on guard, ready to attack. She took him for obedience training to ensure he was trained as a friendly pet.

“If dogs are trained to be a pet, they won’t be mean,” she said. “Obviously, police dogs are trained for other things.”

  While taking Flash on walks, others who meet her along the way often avoid her and Flash.

“People get intimidated from him. He has a deep bark. Some tend to stay away from him.”

Yet, that’s one reason why Vestal said she likes him.

“I don’t feel scared to walk at night with him.”

With Flash being a bigger dog breed, he also requires lots of exercise and play time. Sitting around home or kenneled isn’t an option — although Flash is not a “fetch” dog.

“I’ll throw a ball, and he’ll tug at it, saying it’s his. He likes tug-of-war the best,” she said.

As a double-coated dog with thick fur, he sheds often. Because of his fur, he enjoys cold weather.

“He’s happy to be out in the cold or snow,” she said.

Flash has been a savior for Vestal’s mental health.

“I felt a really big change in my mental health after I got him. I still have some bad days, but not as bad as in the past,” she reflected. “Before I wasn’t sure of ways to cope. He opened my eyes to coping in positive ways.” 

Vestal has been outside, enjoying nature, because she knows it’s important for Flash to get outside. Other bonuses: the fresh air and seeing others makes her feel less lonely.

“He’s my companion — my buddy. He’s someone who is always there for me. He’s always happy to see me when I get home from work,” she said.

For other people struggling with anxiety and loneliness, Vestal suggested a pet. 

“My friends and family aren’t always around,” she said. “But a pet is always there for you unconditionally.”

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