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But she is now slowly building herself back to the person she was before the tragedy – thanks to her emotional support pet, Henry the chihuahua.
Debbie, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of her son’s death, said 24-week-old Henry has had “a huge impact” on her overall well-being.
“I feel like I can take a breath now, I feel like I was holding my breath before,” she said.
In December 2018, Rupert, who lived in Woolston, was a passenger in a car heading to the West Coast. The driver lost control and the vehicle crashed off the road.
Rupert was found 9m from the vehicle, suffering multiple head fractures. He was flown to Wellington Hospital but never regained consciousness.
While Hogg survived, passengers Rupert and West Coast woman Kelsie Monk, the niece of Pike River families spokesman Bernie Monk, died.
The remaining passenger, who was Rupert’s partner, was left with permanent brain injuries.
Sitting by her son’s side for 18 days desperately hoping he would regain consciousness was like “living in a nightmare,” Debbie said.
“It was an absolute shock. It just felt like someone had ripped out a piece of my heart and chucked it away.
“My heart was just breaking inside when I was trying to do normal routine things. I would just cry at almost anything. If I saw a sweet wee child I would start crying, I couldn’t help it.”
Debbie, who previously worked as a health worker at a rest home and before that was an ambulance officer, has been unable to work since Rupert’s death.
But little Henry is helping her get to a point where she could return to work.
“I am getting better and since I have had Henry I have been remarkably calmer.
“I just feel like if I did not have Henry I would be stuck in Groundhog Day to be honest.”
She takes Henry everywhere she goes, into shops, restaurants and cafes.
There are some places that don’t let her in with Henry which she found upsetting.
She wanted people to understand the importance of emotional support pets for those who are struggling with mental illness.
“I would like people to recognise that people who have emotional support pets are not doing it because they are animal mad, we are doing it because we need that encouragement. I get very stressed if I can’t have Henry with me.”