Three years ago, Curtis H. was sitting in a prison cell, with a bleak outlook and little hope for the future.
In the middle of a 10-year sentence for burglary after ingesting four months’ worth of medication in a suicide attempt and blacking out on someone’s porch, Curtis needed a sign – something, anything, that would help give his life meaning and purpose.
“They had dogs in prison,” recounts Curtis. “I always had a dog in my cell.” It was there that Curtis was introduced to dog grooming and quickly found peace and purpose in the work.
Using his newfound passion for animals as inspiration, Curtis began to turn his life around. He was released after serving 5 years of his sentence, and soon after began to come to Portage Path to work on some of the issues that had dogged him for years.
Curtis’ childhood could be described as rigid and joyless, with strict rules enforced by his police officer father, whose paranoid behavior was likely heavily influenced from years of law enforcement experience.
“The doors and windows all had to be locked at all times,” remembers Curtis. “And we weren’t allowed to laugh or play or be kids.”
In his 20’s, Curtis began struggling with anxiety, depression and addiction, all serving to steer him into the path of trouble, usually in the form of theft.
Today, 44 year-old Curtis works with his therapist to control anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Gradually, he is putting the years of abuse suffered in childhood and prison behind him. He draws support from his service dog Max, whom he rescued and trained himself.
“Max helps me more than the average person can understand,” says Curtis. I went from drinking 7 days a week, in and out of prison, to all of this.”
Recently married with 4 dogs of his own, Curtis now finds himself in a situation surrounded by love and acceptance, and after 15-20 years of not speaking to his family, Curtis sees his brother and aunt regularly. He has maintained sobriety for years.
Curtis has also managed to turn his passion into an occupation. He is the owner of a dog grooming business that is steadily growing. He has been able to buy a house, fix it up, and sell it for a profit, using the proceeds to purchase a larger house for his family. The Curtis of three years ago seems like a distant memory.
“There’s a huge change (in me) from when I first started coming to Portage Path to now. When I came here, I was a basket case. I didn’t want to be around anyone. I had no place to stay, no clothes, nothing. Now there’s nothing more I could need or want.”