Stacey Jones, now a happily married 33-year-old mother of two, was a victim of childhood sexual abuse.
As a result of this abuse, Stacey now battles mental health issues.
“I was diagnosed with social anxiety at [the age of] 18, then Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) when I was 30.”
The good news is Jones is able to live a somewhat normal life thanks to her friend named Mercy.
Mercy is an “emotional support dog." Mercy, a female, just turned one years of age on Sept. 13. Mercy is considered to be an American Pit Bull Terrier with the United Kennel Club (UKC) according to Jones.
Jones' psychiatrist has designated Mercy to be Jones' emotional support dog.
“I don’t sleep well without Mercy. She calms me when I’m having anxiety and makes me feel safe at home and in public. Before Mercy came into my life I had extremely withdrawn myself and leaving my house became increasingly harder to do by myself,” Jones said.
Jones takes Mercy everywhere she goes now. She went online and registered Mercy as a “service dog” with the US Dog Registration and Federal Service Dog Registration. Stacey says having a registration number and ID card and tag make going places much easier without being questioned.
Jones is familiar with the qualities and characteristics service dogs and therapy dogs must have. She personally trained Mercy to do specific tasks for her that she couldn’t do on her own.
“For example, one thing she does is when I’m approached by a stranger, or anyone while in public or anyplace but at home, Mercy will make sure she is between me and whomever has approached me. She will look to me for me to let her know if she can sit beside me or if I want her to stay in front of me,” Jones said.
Jones said service/therapy dogs must have the following characteristics: submissive demeanor, non-reactive to other animals, non-aggressive with any other animals or people, calm, ability to obey verbal and signaled commands and an eagerness to please.
Jones would like to become a certified trainer. She said she doesn’t have the money right now to pay for a school, but “I’d love to have the extra money to pay for school to become a certified dog trainer. I’ve been training dogs since I was 22 when I trained a service (emotional support) dog for my son who was diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) and SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder) when he was four. He’s grown now and has little or no issues. It’s almost as if he’s grown out of it."
Because Mercy helped Jones so much, she wants to pay-it-forward so to speak. Jones aspires to train other dogs so that they can become an emotional support service dog to someone who is in need of one. She wants to call her program “Mercy’s Mission.”
Jones said with “all the tragedy, heartbreak and natural disasters our country has endured the past few months, people may need a reminder that there is good in this world and that people do exist that simply want to be a part of helping someone else heal and feel loved and secure. The unconditional love and reassurance a therapy dog can provide is priceless, which is why I could never charge a dime to anyone who needs one of these magical dogs as much as I do. Mercy has changed my life and saying she has saved my life isn’t too far-fetched.”
Jones said she doesn’t know what the future holds. She said she’d like to breed Mercy one time and keep a couple of her offspring to train for others like herself that would have a better quality of life with a service dog.
When asked if she might consider opening a kennel for training service dogs she said, “I honestly don’t know what the future holds. I know I can only train one to two dogs at a time and I would never want more dogs than I could give plenty of quality time to. Since everything we are doing is out of our own pocket, and the type of training these dogs have to have requires them to live with me until they have learned the tasks they need to do and have proven to be non-reactive to other animals or people in public—I don’t see how a kennel would be possible without charging people for trained dogs—which would defeat what I want to do, and that is to find others like myself who wouldn’t be able to afford a service dog and/or wait up to two years or more to receive one," Jones said.
“I’d like to see these dogs go to people who have PTSD, severe anxiety or depression. If I can do something to bless someone else who struggles with the fears and the pain of PTSD, anxiety, and depression, as well as help to keep it from consuming them as it did me, then I believe that will be healing for myself as much as it is for them. That is my hope.”
“I know from experience how much Mercy has helped me get out of my comfort zone and I’ve been able to attend more functions such as football games and other places and functions that I couldn’t attend before I had her to reassure me that I’m not alone and I’m safe.”
Jones wants others to benefit from service animals like Mercy and also to improve the image of the pit bull breed.
“Mercy’s just my angel and makes me feel safe and at ease. I want others who are still scared to walk into an empty house to have that special dog for them to assure them they aren't alone and don't have to be scared. That's the focus. Plus, the bully breed needs the positive stories like this out there, not just the horrid stories of attacks and mauling.”
If you have questions about Mercy’s Mission or would like to help you can contact Stacey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To get help with and report sexual abuse you can call the OKC YWCA 24-Hr Sexual Assault Hotline at 405.943.7273, or call their, 24-Hr State Safeline: 800-522-7233, or you can call the R.A.I.N.N. National Sexual Assault Hotline at1-800-656-4673.