Cancer, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia had caused Maragret Ellis to sink into a deep depression.
â€œI spent two years just sitting in a chair,â€ she said. â€œJust sitting there.â€
It was the Squamous Cell Carcinoma diagnosis (a form of skin cancer) that was the last straw. Ellisâ€™ mental state deteriorated, and her doctor told her she needed to get help. He suggested a dog.
Ellis was hesitant at first. The owner of a 17-pound Himalayan cat, she had never really considered the idea.
Even so, she knew something had to be done, so she followed doctorsâ€™ orders and bought a shih tzu puppy. She fell in love immediately.
â€œHe sat on my lap, and all the way home I said â€˜Youâ€™re so precious,â€™ and thatâ€™s how he got his name,â€ Ellis said.
Since Precious came into Ellisâ€™ home, the little dog has rarely left her side.
â€œI canâ€™t leave the room four or five minutes without him checking on me,â€ she said.
Having a dog changed Ellis.
â€œThe little dog started helping me feel better,â€ she said. â€œ(Dogs) donâ€™t care who you are, what you are, what you do. They love.â€
A year after Precious came into her life, Ellisâ€™ medical conditions have lessened. She no longer has Squamous Cell Carcinoma, although she is still dealing with Basil Cell, a condition that could turn malignant.
Despite ongoing problems, Ellisâ€™ outlook on life has improved, and she says she owes it all to her little dog.
â€œHe really has no other function than to make people happy,â€ she said.
With this in mind, Ellis started taking Precious to training classes at First Class in High Shoals. The dog completed 22 hours of training and will soon test for a therapy dog license.
The pair will go to Pineville this month to receive certification. If Precious passes, they will then visit daycare centers and nursing homes. There, Precious can do what she does best â€“ make people feel better.
â€œThereâ€™s no better therapy for somebodyâ€™s that sick than a dog,â€ she said.
She sometimes wonders why â€œGod let me off so easy with this cancer.â€ The answer, she feels, is for her and Precious to help people.
â€œHe stood by my side (throughout my illness), so I thought â€˜I need to give that back,â€™â€ Ellis said.
She hopes other dogs in Lincoln County will also go through training to become certified in pet therapy. All dogs, she believes, have a lot of love in them.
Of course, Precious, who she refers to as a bandit because â€œHe steals everyoneâ€™s heart,â€ is one-of-a-kind.
â€œHoney, he lifts depression,â€ she said. â€œThatâ€™s what he did for me.â€
For more information call Margaret Ellis at (704) 735-4651.
by Sarah Grano