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Dogs, the True Healers

Many of us dog-lovers agree that having a dog can be extremely therapeutic.  The unconditional love that our animals show us can be the best medicine.

But Rob Garofalo, a man of science, didn't always believe this.  

Garofalo, a doctor, spent most of his life building his medical and research career.  He put nearly all of his time into helping young AIDS patient.  However, when Garofalo found out that he, too, was HIV-positive, the tables turned.  While he offered medical and emotional support to his patients, he simply couldn't apply the same support to himself.  

This wasn't the first medical battle Garofalo had gone through.  He has also survived kidney cancer, and a breakup with his long-time partner, combined with the news of his HIV, seemed like too much for Garofalo.  So, on his way home from an emotionally difficult family visit, he decided that upon his arrival in Chicago, his home city, he would get a dog.

And Garofalo says that when he got Fred, a Yorkshire Terrier, everything changed.  Fred forced Garofalo out of his incredible depression simply by being a "bundle of joy."  Garofalo even said Fred is responsible for saving his life, because he was at such a low point that he considered suicide.

But now?  Now Garofalo is living life.  He has the courage to conquer every day, despite his disease.  And he says he owes all of his thanks to Fred.  

So how can a dog help someone so much emotionally?  Well, first, the obvious:  dogs provide constant companionship and unconditional love.  This made Garofalo simply feel needed by Fred, and present in the world.  Fred also forced him to leave the house, to take him out, to walk him, to go get him food.  Fred forced Garofalo to socialize and throw himself into the outside world despite his disease.  To Garofalo, Fred was life-saving.

So we have Fred and Dr. Garofalo to thank for the new project, "When Dogs Heal."  In an exhibit launching Tuesday, December 1st in Chicago, "When Dogs Heal" will feature photographs of HIV-positive people with their dogs, opening their heart to the photographer on how their dog helped them heal.

Physical wounds are hard to heal, but emotional wounds can be even harder.  While Fred can't cure Garofalo physically, he has given him the emotional strength to fight every day for his health and to live his life to the fullest.  

Garofalo's favorite story to tell is the moment he found his mother cradling Fred in her arms, telling him, "You're a miracle, you brought my son back."

Dogs can love and dogs can heal.  Now go thank your furry friend!

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Jenna Gomes

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Jenna Gomes