Only around three years ago, I was in a very dark place. I was in a horrible situation with my romantic relationship, I was extremely depressed, and I was experiencing what I now know are mixed episodes (hypomania and depression mixed together). I didn’t know how I was going to get myself out of the situation that I was in and I felt lost to say the least.
Some of what went on was a blur of emotions. I was in tears multiple times a day. I got angry, sad, happy, and then sad again all within a short period of time (we are talking minutes in some cases). There were moments where I was so sad and so full of an overwhelming feeling of total despair that I would pick up the butcher knives in my kitchen and hold them to my wrists, ready to cut as soon as my hands would steady enough to do so, and I got up the nerve.
I don’t say any of this for pity or even for the shock value. It is just important to know my mindset at the time. In spite of the sadness and despair, I decided to adopt a dog. I thought that having a pet around would make me happy somehow. Little did I know that I was actually more right about the benefits of having a dog than I could have ever known.
I went to the humane society and immediately saw a dog that spoke to my heart. He was a beagle mix and when I looked at him in his kennel, he was curled up in a little ball looking so deeply depressed and forlorn that I felt an instant connection to him. I asked to meet him and he was brought into a visitor room. His entire demeanor changed in the room. He was excited and spazzy, running and jumping all over the place. And this made me relate to him even more.
I felt as though his moods and my moods were in sync. He was sad when he was neglected, ignored, and the like but happy when people were paying him attention. Max was my dog and I knew it without thinking. So, needless to say, he came home with me that night. Now, Max is not and never technically has been my therapy dog. But the therapeutic benefits of having him in my life have been unprecedented.
Max saved my life that day. I had a reason to live. I had a reason to get out of bed in the morning. I could breathe again. There was something in my life to fill the void that my relationship with my then boyfriend had created inside of me. That is not to say that Max doesn’t have issues. As a rescue dog, he has his quirks and even some mental health issues of his own.
When I got him, he had behavior issues related to scratching. He would rub his back near the base of his tail on people and furniture all the time. Several trips to the vet and hundreds of dollars in tests revealed that he had severe food allergies and had to be on a grain-free and chicken-free diet. He is also an anxious dog and is quite jumpy and is especially scared of men unless he has been introduced and allowed to get to know them on his own terms. Max has issues, but I can understand them.
He is a kindred spirit. And he turned my life around. I couldn’t let things get too bad because he didn’t deserve that. I couldn’t end my life because Max needed me and he would be harmed by such an action. It was like he was a symbol for everything good inside me that I could not see. Max has been my savior and he is still my heart. He is so happy to see me every morning when we wake up. He comforts me when I am sad and literally tries to lick away my tears which makes me laugh and stop crying if only temporarily.
Before I had a therapist, Max became my own personal form of therapy. Pets as therapy or as therapeutic tools may not work for everybody, but the unconditional love Max showed me got me through the darkest time in my life. And I will never go a day again without a pet in my life. Oh, and I now have 3 pets, two cats and Max. They all bring me joy and keep me going on my worst days. I couldn’t be more grateful.
If you have thoughts on my post or have your own pet-related stories to tell, leave me a comment below. And as always, thanks for reading!