'He's my best mate': One man's epic journey back to dog
WHEN Scott Browne grappled with the idea of seeking treatment for his alcoholism, he was plagued with fear it would mean losing the one friend always by his side.
Finding himself homeless and unemployed, Mr Browne said he hit his lowest point before making the decision to ask for help.
"One morning, I woke up and couldn't remember the previous days before it or where I was," Mr Browne said.
"I felt sorry for my dog.
"He didn't care but I did."
Mr Browne reached out to St Vincent de Paul's Cornerstone in Warwick and found the support he needed but it came with a cost.
Most emergency accommodation services don't allow pets, leaving the Warwick man with two options: continue living in his car or place Darth in the hands of a no-kill shelter.
"It was the one downside," Mr Browne said.
"It took about two weeks of back and forth before I said, 'let's do it quickly, before I change my mind'."
"There was this anxiety of making sure he was in a good place and the anxiety I'd never see him again."
For Mr Browne and Darth, it was the first time they had been without each other since Darth was a puppy.
"We spent every day together," Mr Browne said.
"You don't get lonely with a dog.
"There's someone who loves you all the time, and gives you a sense of responsibility."
Mr Browne's experience matches research from Pet Behaviour Science that shows pets can help provide emotional support to homeless people, and dogs reduced the likelihood of homeless people committing crime and inspired better decision making.
St Vincent de Paul Society's housing support worker Dale Mann agreed that Mr Browne's determination to get better would not be possible without Darth.
"After working here you can get the wind taken out of you, but a case like Scott's reminds you why you're here," Mrs Mann said.
"It's always good when a participant wants it so badly."
But as Mr Browne gained secure employment and housing, Darth was always in the forefront of his mind.
"I didn't want him in there too long," he said.
"I knew how quickly a dog like him could be snapped up."
After two months apart the two were reunited and are now living on a property with plenty of room for Darth to run.
Mr Browne said the nudge forward, thanks to Darth, was the best thing that could have happened.
"I won't look back," he said.
"I want to be here for a long time."
And as for Darth, Mr Browne's making sure he never loses him again.
"My dog motivated everything. He's my best mate," he said.