Chances the Dog: A Symbol of Recovery and Second Chances
From being abused as a puppy by her original owners and being attacked by other dogs to surviving a handful of car accidents and two bouts of cancer, Chances, the lovable, often scarf-clad Boxer mix you’ve likely seen around Promises Treatment Centers, has been through a lot. But Patricia Meyers, Chances’ owner and Clinical Director of Admissions at Promises, knows that Chances is a survivor, and is here to help clients recovering at Promises.
While living in an apartment building where Chances lived with another family, Patricia quickly noted that her owners were using drugs, and also saw that Chances didn’t look well and needed medical attention. One day Patricia had the opportunity to rescue Chances, and although she immediately had to give Chances back, a few weeks later (after her owner was arrested on other charges), Chances was allowed to stay with Patricia for good.
The vet told Patricia that the previous owner had hit Chances with a bat, breaking all of her legs and her hips. Although Patricia couldn’t afford the medical treatments, her friends banded together to help raise money, and Chances got the medical attention she needed.
Patricia never intended to keep Chances; she wanted to rescue her from her abusive situation and find her a safe, loving home. However, after just a short time with Chances, Patricia knew she could not be separated from her. Caring for Chances mirrored other changes she was making in her life at the time.
Patricia was working at the newly opened Promises Malibu campus, and took Chances with her on weekends. “Everyone just fell in love with Chances,” Patricia said. “She immediately gravitated toward the client who needed her most, which became very special. Clients from several years back will call, and while they may not remember my name, they always ask about Chances.”
Chances has been very helpful for many clients, Patricia explained. For example, one client who suffered terrible panic attacks found that being with Chances calmed her, so she would sit with Chances to help regulate her breathing and calm her down. The client recently celebrated a year of sobriety, and still likes to visit Chances.
Some people are hesitant to come to treatment because they don’t want to leave their pets. Now, Promises Malibu allows clients to bring their dogs with them, creating a special space for owner and pet at the Cool Oak House. “Dogs are affected by their owners’ using drugs, so when both owner and pet come to treatment together, they are provided with a therapeutic environment where they can both heal,” Patricia said.
Part of recovery is learning how to be a responsible caretaker, Patricia explained, so it’s important for pet owners to learn how to not only take care of themselves, but also to take care of their animals, just like mothers and fathers who need help improving their parenting skills. “People like to say they take care of their animals when they’re using, but the reality is that on some level, the animal is being neglected; just as their own health and well-being is being neglected,” she added.
Chances has played an integral role in Patricia’s own well-being. About six years ago, Patricia and her fiancé, Scott, were in a car accident with Chances in the car. After the car rolled over and down an embankment, Chances was nowhere to be found. Patricia was badly hurt and was taken to the hospital by ambulance, but her fiancé was well enough to look for Chances. He found her about 15 feet away from the totaled car, with only a piece of glass in her paw. “To me, that was divine intervention,” Patricia said. “I think an angel swept her out of the car.” She says she still can’t believe everyone survived the crash.
About two years later, Scott and Patricia’s father both passed away within a few months of each other. Patricia was grief-stricken and distraught, and had to take a leave of absence from Promises. “I wasn’t sure I would be able to come back, but Richard Rogg (the founder of Promises) told me that no matter how long it took, I would have a job waiting for me at Promises,” she said. “Richard would call and check on me, and one day I told him I felt ready to come back to work part-time. He said, ‘Make sure Chances comes with you.’ Ever since then, she’s come to work with me every day.”
Patricia says she thinks Chances was the reason she got through her grief. “Chances was attuned to my emotions and stayed very close to me. I had to get out of bed and take Chances out for a walk and feed her; she made it okay to slowly get back in the groove of my life.”
“During recovery, there are times when you feel like you’re on a rollercoaster,” Patricia said. “Just because you’re clean and sober doesn’t mean everything is going smoothly. Life shows up.” She added, “One of the great things about my recovery was the decision to keep Chances, which meant a great deal of responsibility. No matter what was going on in my life, Chances had to be a priority. She’s gotten me through some of the darkest times of my life. I don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t have her.”
Patricia sees Chances as a symbol of hope for many recovering clients. “People see Chances and they think, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to have my dog here?’ Now we can actually make that happen. Where a client wouldn’t typically come to treatment or extend treatment because of their pets, there’s now an opportunity for them to continue on their path to recovery.”