Andrew Knapp

Richard & Zooey

Andrew Knapp
Richard & Zooey

At a dog pound near San Luis Obispo, California, a Border Collie Australian Shepard mix approached Richard. She seemed much more relaxed than you’d expect for her breed. This wasn’t the dog he was there to adopt, but she matched what Richard was looking for. He decided to pay the adoption fee for both dogs, and left with this unexpected match. Whoever adopted the one he left behind received a generous surprise.

Before Zooey, Richard was more of a couch body. As with many of us, having a dog now takes him out on hikes and beach walks. During some darker days, Zooey has found Richard in the house, gave him a look, and took him outside. Now, their adventures are relentless, and she's always by his side.


In cognitive behavioural therapy, the Cognitive Triangle describes the connection between what we feel, our thoughts, and our actions. Our feelings affects what we think, our thoughts affect how we act, and our actions can perpetuate our feelings. The most logical step to intervene this triangle before it spirals, it’s said, is in the actions – if we’re feeling unworthy, our thoughts will support this, and our actions will perpetuate this (lethargy, isolation, substance abuse) which will lead to further negative feelings. If we can remove ourselves from these actions, we can begin to break the spiral. This is where a dog can help us. Removing us from negative behaviour simply by interacting with us can be a big step in changing a spiral’s direction.

The most unexpected element of getting Zooey was when his son was born. They immediately shared an extraordinary bond. They were attached at the hip. They often disappear into a corner of the house and play with each other, even talking to each other. Richard finds that this helps his own relationship with his son. His excursions into nature now include both his son and his dog. At the beach, hiking, day trips, and in national parks, they’re a family that adventures together. 

Both his son and his dog have made sure he looks after himself more – he’s more cautious, takes better care of himself, and finds himself to be much more of a doer. Where he used to dream of doing things, now he does them – and brings his family along for the ride.

If you’re planning to adopt a dog, Richard suggests visiting a shelter and giving a home to a dog that’s already waiting for one. He recommends volunteering for a bit and you’ll probably find one that you interact well with, and you’ll probably even get some therapy out of it. 



If you liked this story, consider donating to the Woods Humane Society in San Luis Obispo, or donate or spend some time helping out at a local rescue you prefer.




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