A recently-implemented program at The Mission at Kern County is helping recovering addicts beat their addictions with the help of therapy dogs.
"What I've done is go through each of the twelve steps and put together themes," said Liz Kover, director of the Miracle Mutts branch of Marley's Mutts Dog Rescue. "Dog-related themes that kind of relate to the working of each step."
The class, which Kover calls "Moving Forward with Dogs 12 Steps at a Time," is now up and running at The Mission's new women and children's center in downtown Bakersfield. The program has already been used at the men's center, but the current class is a first for the women.
The class, which takes place at the center on Thursday mornings, runs for twelve weeks. It involves discussion of the current step in the 12-step recovery addiction process in the first half of the class (this week's involved turning your life over to God), and then interactive lessons using the dogs.
"They come from broken homes," said Veronica Laughlin of the dogs used in the program, which are often rescued by Marley's Mutts. "Being neglected and hurt."
Laughlin is a recovering meth addict and Thursday represented her one-year anniversary of being taken off the street and placed at The Mission. She's set to graduate from the recovery program this summer and then begin a post-program which will help with transitioning out of the rescue home.
"I've been restored inside and out. I'm not broken, I'm the happiest I've been in a long time."
Women in the program spoke about how the dogs help relieve anxiety, an issue many said they faced when first entering the program. One woman even tracked her resting heart rate on her FitBit, saying it calms considerably when the dogs are in the room.