Anyone who’s read more than one post on this blog or has even glanced at the sidebar could probably guess that I’m a big fan of my dog. I really love my dog, but that’s not the half of it. She changed, and in some ways, saved my life.
I have major depressive disorder. The older I get, the worse it gets. A couple of years ago, when I was unemployed, my depression was debilitating. I could not get out of bed. I didn’t eat. I cried all the time. I debated the best way to kill myself and who would get which belongings. My friends gave me an ultimatum: either get help on my own or they would get help for me in the form of committing me to psychiatric treatment where I would have no freedom. They were scared and rightfully so. I got help. I got medicated. I got a job.
I’d had dogs before, but not for a long time since the wounds of how they died were still too fresh, even ten years later. I was in an abusive relationship and I’m fairly certain that monster killed them. The concept of dogs was heartbreaking to me. It was full of shame and guilt that I was unable to help them. I couldn’t even help myself.
Not even two months after I got a job, I went to a pet store to buy cat food and stumbled into a shelter adoption. I walked in to buy cat food and walked out with an eight pound puppy. From the moment we locked eyes, I knew she was mine. I could not walk away. This picture was taken the very first day I brought her home.
We’ve had our ups and downs. I’m very glad she’s not a puppy anymore although I do miss that cuteness. She will be two years old on Valentine’s Day, which is the same day I started my job. If I believed in such things as fate, well, this would be it.
I still have depression. It’s not like it ever goes away, even with medication. I can just cope a lot better now. Now, when the voice in my head tells me to end it, I can shoo it away a little easier, but it’s still there. My dog helps. When I get to thinking about who will get which belongings, I stop at my dog. I think about her living on without me, about how sad she would be if I were gone, and it stops right there. She makes it impossible for me to go any further with that train of thought. She has saved my life. It’s really difficult to be depressed or grumpy around her. She stares at you with those big eyes, ears back, tail gently wagging and it all just melts away.
My dog has a huge heart. She loves everyone: dogs, cats, humans, squirrels. Especially squirrels. Ever since she was a puppy, I’ve taken her everywhere with me. Well, everywhere you can take dogs anyway. I’ve sat outside freezing my butt off at restaurants just so I could have her there.
She has this intrinsic quality about her that makes people happy. Random people smile at her. I’ve had people say that they’re generally afraid of big dogs, but they come up and pet her anyway. People in cars at red lights will smile and wave at her. People walking by will stop and kneel and pet her for a good long while. A man that we regularly see at the coffee shop carries dog treats with him and he doesn’t even have his own dog. He carries them for her. Everyone wants to pet her and she wants to be petted by everyone.
A week or so ago, Male and I were sitting outside at the coffee shop and an old man in a wheelchair came out of his way to come pet her. She gently licked his hand and wagged her tail. He started crying. He said the worst part about getting old is not being able to care for a dog. He had dogs his whole life and he missed them so much. He stayed there for a good five minutes just petting her before he said, “Thank you so much for sharing her,” and rolled away.
My dog makes people happy. I want to share that. Not just with random strangers at coffee shops and restaurants, but with people who really need it like that old man. I want to register her as a therapy dog so that I can take her to hospitals and nursing homes and the like.
She’s still a little too hyper yet. She has a tendency to jump on people because she gets too excited, but I’ve been working on it and she’s getting better about it. I think the rest will come with age. When I’m completely sure that she won’t jump, I’m going to register her.
It might be difficult for me to do that with everything I’ve been through, but I think the benefits will outweigh any hardships. It’s not about me anyway; it’s about sharing the love and maybe saving someone else in need.
Does anyone have any experience with therapy dogs? If so, please, leave a comment. Advice would be appreciated.