PLAINSBORO, NJ – Miki supports mental illness and suicide awareness, and thanks to his activism in these areas, he is going to be honored on national television this Saturday afternoon. He’ll be the one with the pointy ears and the furry face.
Miki, a three-year-old Pomeranian, is going to be honored by the American Kennel Club this Saturday. He belongs to Tricia Baker of Plainsboro, also a mental health activist. Baker’s son committed suicide in 2009, shortly after his 19th birthday. Devastated by the loss, Baker founded AIR (Attitudes in Reverse), a 501c3 non-profit organization.
AIR’s motto is that mental illness is like air - just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. After her personal experience, Baker made it her mission to create awareness for the serious problem of mental illness. And Miki has been right by her side.
“He goes everywhere with me,” Baker said. The little dog has helped her through many rough times, including the death of her son. When they wear their green and white AIR t-shirts out and about, people stop to ask about the organization. Baker explains that the white part of the shirt represents hope and the green represents children’s mental illness. Baker said that since children were their main target, they “saw a benefit in having a dog there.”
The award that Miki will be receiving on Saturday afternoon on ABC at 2pm is for ACE, Award of Canine Excellence. He was entered into the Therapy category, which was the largest one with about 200 entries, according to Baker.
After narrowing down all the entries, the judges decided that Miki’s was such a powerful story, it needed to be told.
“I’m so proud of him,” Baker said. “It’s a once in a lifetime experience.” She is still amazed that such a little dog could bring so much attention to something like mental illness.
Miki’s story doesn’t end there. Baker and Miki also volunteer at the South Brunswick Library, where children with learning disabilities can come and read to Miki to boost their confidence.
The program, called Tail Wagging Tutors, believes that a kid reading to a dog is a good step because dogs don’t judge or criticize. While each child reads, no one talks except the reader, and they become more comfortable when they read to other people.
Paws 4 Awareness is another event that will be happening on May 19, 2012 at Mercer Country Park. The event supports dogs and how they are good for everyone’s mental health.
Registration for this event will start at 8:30 a.m. and will be preceded by a five kilometer (human) run at 10 a.m. and the dog walk immediate follows the end of the run.
Events like these are important in increasing awareness of mental illness, Baker explained.
“Anyone who suffers from a mental illness may not have a tomorrow because no one likes to talk about it,” she said, adding that she strongly believes more research needs to be done and that suicide and mental illnesses are not any different from cancer or heart disease.
“But with a healthy brain, there will be a tomorrow,” she said.