THIS girl is testament to dogs being more than just man’s best friend.
Former Padgate High pupil Michelle Booth turned to self-harming after being diagnosed with depression five years ago but has had a confidence boost attending animal therapy classes thanks to cash from the National Lottery.
The 23-year-old, from Grappenhall, says being around such intuitive animals has really helped her including her own dog at home Dingo who ‘always knows when she is upset’.
Michelle added: “He won’t leave me alone when I’m low and will nudge my hand to try and stop me from cutting myself and lick it when it starts to bleed.
“It’s the same with the dogs at the group and Nula (who Michelle has been paired with at animal therapy) comes running up to me when I walk in.
“I was uneasy at first about going to the group but everyone was so welcoming and understanding, it felt like a family.”
The sessions, run by self-harming charity No Secrets for over 16s, took place over six weeks before Christmas with organiser Kerri Jones now hoping to secure more funding for them to continue beyond March.
She added: “Each person is paired up with a dog and then they’re taught how to walk them and basic commands like sit, lie down and stay.
“It helps to build the person’s confidence and gives them something else to focus on.
“There was one young lady who started off speaking in a very quiet voice and the dog wasn’t listening to her and by the end she was speaking loudly in front of people and you could see the difference in the way she held herself.
“A questionnaire we asked everyone to fill in before and after also found the amount of times the participants had suicidal or self-harming thoughts had halved so it makes a big difference.”
For Michelle, self-harming started in school and she found things snowballed after her dad died.
Michelle, who suffers from anxiety, added: “I used anything sharp I could find to cut myself but going to the group has helped a lot and made a huge difference to my self-esteem.
“Dogs are so intuitive they can tell when something is wrong with a person.
“I’ve had Dingo for two years now and he’s my baby.
“In fact my other half says he gets treated better!”
For more information visit no-secrets.org.uk.