Mark Koning: how our dogs helped with my mom’s ABI recovery

Every animal lover knows pets play a very special role in our lives. This story by Mark Koning is the first in a series where Brain Injury Blog TO will explore the relationships we have with our animal companions, as ABI survivors and caregivers.


I am what you would call, ‘a dog person’. I believe dogs are awesome pets. Forget about man’s best friend, how about a valuable family member? Great ambassador, hero, protector, therapist and motivator.

Growing up, dogs were always around by means of relatives and / or friends. But me and my immediate family, we had no pets … well, we did have goldfish. It wasn’t until 1998 that Casey (a Dachshund, a.k.a. a wiener dog) was adopted into our clan when she was two-years-old. We sadly lost her to cancer ten years later. We now have Petey, (an American Staffordshire) almost ten-years of age, brought to us through the OSPCA in 2005.

Casey left her mark, and Petey has already made a similar impact as well. I refer to all of the above, but specifically to the ‘therapist and motivator’ role.

My mom sustained her brain injury in 2001. She had fallen and a blood clot formed, forever changing all of our lives. After successful surgery that removed the clot and allowed oxygen to flow once again, she remained in a coma for the better part of a month. When she came out of it she could barely move, she could not talk, and the overwhelming depression made any further recovery seem hopeless.

When the doctors heard about Casey, they not only allowed me and my sister to bring her for visits, they encouraged it. My mom lit up being reunited with Casey, the cuddling and licking kick started a whole new determination. When she returned home the inspirations continued as Casey would sit there and watch therapy nurses (speech, cognitive and physical) come in and work with my mom.

Petey has now taken over, and while my mom has come a long way, there is still a journey ahead which the dog will be right by her side in taking. He watches out for her, he slows her down when it is needed, and he helps her speech. No, he does not engage in conversation with her, (imagine what that would be like) but he patiently sits there and listens as she speaks (and organizes) her thoughts.

I was a dog person before my mom’s tragedy, and now I am a dog champion. As short as a canine’s life may be in comparison to ours, (a sad fact) they do their best, in spite of tragedy, to help ours continue and shine. It makes a dog’s value, priceless!

Do you love to brag about your pet? Enter our pet photo contest on Facebook! Tell us about the animal (s) in your life + what they mean to you!