When a shelter dog is the right prescription

Becca & Mowgli

Thanks to Mowgli, Becca Ylitalo’s depression and anxiety are more manageable than ever.

Becca has lived with depression and anxiety for seven years, with panic attacks being a common, even daily occurrence — but things are different these days. After almost a year with her emotional support dog, Mowgli, Becca’s life has changed drastically.

Becca adopted Mowgli (formerly known as Landry) in January 2017 from Animal Humane Society’s St. Paul shelter. She first spotted him and his littermates online. She thought he was cute, but knowing how quickly puppies are adopted, she didn’t expect anything to come of it.

A few days later, she checked the AHS website again. He was the only one left. She decided then that if he was still available the following day, she would adopt him.

“There was something about his face. He looked pretty aloof,” Becca says, “but ever since he came home with me, he’s been amazing.”

Mowgli goes almost everywhere with Becca (as long as dogs are permitted). From her work at Adogo, a pet hotel, in Minnetonka — he gets to play with the other dogs and hang out with her in the prep room — to running errands or even visiting breweries with friends.

In less than a year together, Mowgli has made quite the impact on Becca’s life.

“Since the day I got him, my mentality just boosted,” Becca says. “Ever since I’ve had Mowgli, I’ve had maybe three panic attacks.”

Becca says that, without training, Mowgli can sense when a panic attack may happen. He’ll put his head in her lap or lean into her, which calms her down and most often, stops the attack from happening.

An Emotional Support Animal (ESA) is any animal that provides comfort and support to an individual with a mental or psychiatric disability, according to Michigan State University’s Animal Legal & Historical Center. In order to qualify as an ESA, owners need to obtain a letter from a mental health professional stating that the animal provides therapeutic value to the owner, according to The American Kennel Club. ESAs are known to help with anxiety, depression, fear, and post-traumatic stress disorder, to name a few. 

Mowgli’s support as Becca’s ESA has changed her life. Not only does he help her manage her depression and panic attacks, he’s also helped her get out of the house more, simply because of his needs to get outside and play or get some exercise.

While he’s fine being lazy and lounging around, Becca notes, he helps her get out into the fresh air and sunshine, which only helps boost her mood.

“I still get episodes every once in a while because that’s the way the brain works,” Becca says. “A dog isn’t going to cure it. But it definitely makes it a lot easier to handle.”

Want to see more of Mowgli? He’s on Instagram at @mowgli.a.mutt

If you want to learn more about emotional support animals, reach out to our Pet Helpline.

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