Author: Linda Milburn, TCU Student, Fall 2014
I believe in the power of one. The power of one can make a difference. More specifically, I believe in the power of my canine companion, Tatum. When my daughter was in college, she rescued Tatum from a shelter. Eventually, she realized Tatum was happier in the country than in an apartment, and decided it was best to leave her with my husband and me. I started taking Tatum to the park in town to walk and I realized that people were drawn to her. They would comment on how it appeared that she was smiling and that her tail was always wagging and welcoming. I began taking her to a park in Fort Worth where I was doing homeless outreach and I witnessed something magical. People migrated to her, both young and old. She allowed for walls to come down and it enabled me to start building relationships with the homeless residents that had not before been approachable. Part of Tatum’s charm is that she is ball motivated. She decides who needs to interact with her, even if they do not always welcome it in the beginning. She continues bringing the ball to them until she gets a shrug and a smile, and eventually, the toss of a ball. I watch in amazement at her gentleness with children, even with chaos surrounding her. I watch the hugs and the rubs she receives as she is giving her welcomed kisses. To some of these people, she is the only physical touch that they may have or the only unconditional love that they get to feel, even if only for a moment. I witness the smiles that she brings to the eyes of the suffering and lost. Over the last several years, Tatum has touched many lives and has created her own little ministry. While she has been able to make a difference in many people’s lives, she has had the biggest impact on mine. As a result of our homeless outreach, I decided I wanted to take it further. Tatum and I became a registered therapy team through Pet Partners, an international nonprofit organization. We also became a registered Reading Education Assistance Dog team and have participated in children’s reading programs. Additionally, Tatum and I have had the opportunity to participate in crisis response and group therapy for substance abuse. I credit her and her spirit with influencing me to go back to school. I have since received an associate’s degree in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counseling. I am now working towards a bachelor’s degree in Social Work, with plans of pursuing a master’s degree.
Tatum has a gift. She has touched so many lives, but she has given me the courage to empower myself with the knowledge to help others. This special four-legged friend exemplifies that just one can make a difference in someone’s life.