On Tuesday afternoon, in the middle of the Toronto Blue Jays‘ batting practice, I found myself sitting on the bench inside the Blue Jays’ dugout, with NSD Flicka, engrossed in an approx. 25 conversation with R.A. Dickey, one of the Blue Jays’ star pitchers (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R.A._Dickey).
How did this happen?
On Sunday morning, I wrote to Mr. Dickey’s agent and politely asked if he could ask Mr. Dickey if he’d be willing to participate in a photo opportunity with NSD Flicka.
Why Mr. Dickey you may be asking? Well, in 2012, Mr. Dickey released an autobiography entitled “Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball“. In his book, Mr. Dickey reports suffering sexual abuse as an 8-year-old child by a 13-year-old female babysitter, and later by a teenage male, and discusses his struggles with suicidal thoughts as an adult.
First thing on Monday morning, the Toronto Blue Jays’ Coordinator, Community Marketing & Player Relations sent me an email telling me that Mr. Dickey had emailed her on Sunday night and had asked her to arrange for me to meet him prior to Tuesday’s game.
At 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, NSD Flicka and I arrived at the entrance to the Blue Jays’ administrative office and we were met by a colleague of the Blue Jays’ Coordinator, Community Marketing & Player Relations. We were then promptly taken to the field of the Rogers Centre. The Blue Jays were taking their batting practice, and NSD Flicka and I were within a short ball’s throw of the batting cage (no zoom on the photos above).
After waiting approx. 10 minutes, which we passed by watching batting practice and chatting with our Blue Jays’ staff escort, we were met by the Blue Jays’ Coordinator, Community Marketing & Player Relations. She walked us to the steps of the Blue Jays’ Dugout, where Mr. Dickey was waiting for us.
For the first minute or so, it was a slightly awkward introduction – at least from my perspective. I think he may have been busy assessing whether I was a crazy fan or posed some other type of risk. After about a minute or so, he invited me to sit with him on the bench in the dugout and chat. We found a comfy seat in the corner of the dug out, beside the bat rack, and became engrossed in our conversation. The rest of the activity in and around the dug out became, and was, a blur for me.
What did we talk about?
Mr. Dickey and I opened up with each other about our childhood sexual abuse experiences (briefly), our resulting challenges in adulthood, and our paths to wellness and recovery. I asked him about his decision making process for going public with his story, and we discussed his subsequent experiences. He was very open with me, and our discussion felt like it was one I would be having with a long time friend.
In some ways, our respective lives have, unfortunately, been similar. His childhood sexual abuse experience took place at the same age that mine took place (age 8), and his struggles with suicidality began at the exact same age that my begin (age 32).
We discussed NSD Flicka at great length, and how service dogs are now being trained to work with individuals struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Since NSD Flicka is the first certified service dog in Canada to have been bred and trained to work with someone with non-combat PTSD (i.e., non-armed forces), he was impressed with the work of National Service Dogs, and he wanted to know more about how dogs like NSD Flicka are being trained and how they’re being placed. As part of our discussion, I demonstrated some of NSD Flicka’s training for him, especially NSD Flicka’s “hug” command. It was apparent to me that Mr. Dickey was moved.
Mr. Dickey told me that he wants to learn more about PTSD service dogs, and he gave me his personal email address. I told him that I would provide him with some materials and that I would also make appropriate introductions for him.
I then took some photos of Mr. Dickey with NSD Flicka, and asked him if he would be willing to sign some copies of his book, which I had brought with me. He was awesome and signed all 5 copies I had with me – personalizing each copy. This morning I gave my doctor a personally signed book. My doctor was delighted. Thank you, Mr. Dickey!
I then asked Mr. Dickey if he would sign a baseball for Flicka. He obliged and then reminded me to be in touch with him.
My lengthy discussion with Mr. Dickey was truly therapeutic for me, and, when I told him that, he said to me that he found it so for himself as well.
Tuesday’s experience was surreal, especially after receiving a personal letter from Canada’s Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper, earlier in the afternoon.