When Pat Smith's brother, George, committed suicide, Pat felt as if she, too, would soon follow George's steps. At the same time, a pit bull dog named Willie was grieving over his own keeper's suicide. When Pat and Willie met, lives were saved.
George Smith's life was fraught with difficulty. He fought drug and alcohol addiction. He would celebrate sobriety, then fall back into abuse. Like many siblings, Pat would encourage and celebrate his positive steps, and pep-talk George when he fell. Finally, George was found dead of an overdose, determined to be a suicide. The Smith family was overcome with guilt, grief, anger, pain -- all emotions attached to suicide.
Pat began feeling as if she, too, were slipping away. "There are programs for parents and spouses of suicides," she explains, "but nothing for siblings." Already an Al-Anon member, Pat had to apply the skills she had learned and seek counseling. She was prescribed antidepressants. Still, nothing helped fill that empty void. Her family and friends worried about her, but it was as if they were stepping around her, not knowing what to say or how to say it. She quit work and would not leave her apartment. All she wanted was George back in her life.
At the same time, her neighbor's son, Alec, committed suicide. Alec left behind a grieving family that had no way to fill the void. Alec also left behind a brown and white pit bull terrier named Willie. As the family consoled one another and looked for answers, everyone stepped over and around Willie. They either ignored him or wondered what to do with him. He was all that was left of Alec, but no one wanted him. Willie went into a deep depression, refusing to eat, play, or even walk. All he wanted was Alec back in his life.
One day Alec's mother asked Pat, "Why don't you take Willie? We can't find a home for him, and no one wants a pit bull." Pat's answer was quick: she did not have time for a dog. She did not want one of those dangerous pit breeds. She was so deep in grief she had no time for her own pain. Then Pat and Willie met. "He made me get up to go for walks because he needed exercise," she explains. "He would sleep with me and we were there for each other if we had nightmares." Willie learned Pat would protect him. Pat learned Willie would watch over her. Soon they were playing "catch," or Willie was making Pat laugh, or Pat was explaining to strangers the truth about pit bulls, regaining her social skills. Alec's family kept in touch and it helped them with their own pain, seeing Willie thrive. Pat's family and friends saw her blossom. They all saved a dog, and a dog saved them all.
When a pit bull ordinance was passed in Pat's apartment complex, banning the breed, she packed up and moved across country, finally finding a place Willie was allowed. "I'm not getting rid of my family member just because you don't like him," she told apartment management. She became involved in education about bully breeds, began working again, and she and Willie still play and go for walks. He had to get used to snow, she laughs, but he learned change was not bad. At the same time, Pat was learning the same lesson.
Both are happy, healthy, survivors. Both are rescuers. "We found each other," Pat says, "it was meant to be."
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Pat and Willie
Pat Smith and her dog, Willie, are happy, healthy, survivors. Both are rescuers. "We found each other," Pat says, "it was meant to be."
"He made me get up to go for walks because he needed exercise," Pat explains. "He would sleep with me and we were there for each other if we had nightmares." Willie learned Pat would protect him. Pat learned Willie would watch over her.
Life is good!
Where once Willie was in a deep depression, refusing to eat, play, or even walk, he is now an energetic, playful dog. Well, most times!
A Packers fan
When a pit bull ordinance was passed in Pat's apartment complex banning the breed, she packed up and moved across country to live with family. Willie is now a Packer's fan, too.