BC teen with social anxiety emerges victorious in battle with town hall to keep puppy

It’s a big win for Tiny.

The three-month-old German Shepherd will not be removed from his new home in Kamloops, BC after his teenage owner, Hailey Fiddes, 16, made a sincere appeal to the city council to let her keep the dog, despite a city ordinance limiting the number of dogs as pets. per house up to two.

Fiddes lives with her family and three other dogs plus Tiny. The family was approved by the council in December 2021 to get a third pet, and asking for a fourth was their luck.

But Fiddes, who suffers from anxiety and depression, went before the city council on May 31, arguing that the newest addition to the family is actually a support animal.

“This is not a pet request,” Fiddes said during the presentation, her voice trembling a bit with nerves.

Teen pet owner Hailey Fiddes bottle-feeds her German Shepherd puppy Tiny. (Submitted by Hailey Fiddes)

Fiddes explained that Tiny has significantly improved her mental health, that she will enroll him in a local academy to be trained as a service animal when he is old enough, and that she should be allowed to keep the dog.

After her speech, the council unanimously agreed.

“This dog is health to you,” Coun said. Dale Bass, before making the first proposal to approve Fiddes’ request.

Bass praised Fidde’s poise, calling her “wonderful” for mustering the courage to come to City Hall and the importance of getting the dog trained.

Public speaking is terrifying to Fiddes, who told the council about her extensive mental health issues. They heard about how she has been on medication and changed schools in the past year and how her supervisor had seen no improvement in her until she got Tiny.

After Fiddes became a dog owner, Fiddes said her anxiety has improved so much that her counselor has reduced her sessions from once a week to alternate weeks.

“He brings comfort and diversion about how I think,” she said.

When Tiny is about five months old, he goes to a service animal training academy, Fiddes said. (Submitted by Hailey Fiddes)

The teen told CBC she fell in love with the litter of the litter when her family visited the breeder they got their third dog from. Fiddes said that once she held Tiny, her “very powerful” fear melted away.

She emailed City Hall asking for permission to keep Tiny and was told her request would likely be denied. So despite past experiences where her social anxiety had paralyzed her in front of peers at school, she knew she would have to stand before a panel of adults and argue her case.

“My dad was standing next to me the whole time and I just stared at the paper, my hands were shaking,” Fiddes said.

But in the end, she says the experience gave her two big wins: a small dog and a great sense of accomplishment.

The teen said confronting the council showed her she is stronger and more capable than she thought, and she hopes it sends a signal to others with social anxiety that they can address their fears.

“If it’s something you’re passionate about, like I am with my dog, then nothing stands in your way other than your own mental block,” Fiddes said.

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