A moment of transparency is coming. Please don’t judge my ignorance and show me grace. Okay, here we go...
I never fully understood the need or purpose of an emotional support animal. It seemed like a convenient way to avoid pet rent and an excuse to bring your cat to all your social events.
Yeah I said it.
Animals that assist the hearing impaired, can help the legally blind navigate their surroundings, or the pup that aids the seizure patient- I get it! That’s amazing! How do I register and train my pup for such a noble deed!? But a dog who just makes you 'feel happy'- can a dog truly be that beneficial to your depression?
Fast forward to April 2017. I was diagnosed with Stage II Triple Negative Breast Cancer at 30 years old. I felt devastated, confused, sad, angry and defeated. My emotions ran the gamut and for the first time since my mother’s passing I experienced deep grief, and road the wave of depression.
It was during this time that my dog, August (aka Auggie, Doodle, Doodle Bucket, Doot, Auggie Doggie and mylittlecutietootieshuggawugga) gravitated to me, fusing himself to my right breast at all times. Y’all, he never left my side, providing me with unlimited amounts of cuddles, licks and puppy eyes. I wasn’t aware of how in tuned he was with my health, both physical, mental and emotional. He proved himself loyal, attentive and caring. It was clear that August was well aware that something was wrong, and that he felt the need to fix it the best he knew how.
Once chemo started, I was left drained and laid out on the couch for days at a time, exhausted and in physical pain. Auggie would lay on top of me, allowing me to pet him while he napped. He became my companion, my shadow and overseer. I can’t deny that his presence brought me comfort, as he is extremely calming. Whether I knew it at the time or not, he was aiding in my emotional stability, providing a little call to a big storm.
Well I’ll be damned. August is my emotional support dog.
While he may not be a legal registered emotional support animal, there is no doubt that this is what he has been to me for over a year now. I can now say, I get it y’all. I’m officially Team Emotional Support Dog/Cat/Goat etc. I’m coming to this conclusion while fully recognizing that what I have experienced can not compare to clinical mental or psychiatric disabilities. Therefore, I can only imagine what an emotional support animal can do for those who battle such disabilities. It is no longer inconceivable to me that animals can truly provide a companionship and calm in a way that reduces anxiety and soothes. I'm incredibly grateful that Auggie was there during my battle through cancer.
So this is to you Auggie- my little shadow and companion. Thanks for being so attentive, and for always seeing the needs of my heart.
Love you Doodle!
So, here are 5 reasons why you too need an Auggie Doodle in your life, especially if you're battling illness:
1. Forced to Get Physically Active
Just because I had cancer, didn't mean my dog stopped needing walks. (It also didn't mean that my sister, whom I live with, didn't relieve me of all dog responsibilities, and for that I am grateful... I guess.) One of the best ways to fight that chemo fatigue is to be active. Taking Auggie on short walks was at times the only reason I got of of the couch.
Animals have been proven to reduce blood pressure and and reduce stress levels. Reduced stress levels can also reduce anxiety levels. Bonus points if you found a calm animal. It still works even if you have a pet who is a bit of a spaz like mine.
Although I had a Village surrounding me during my battle, I still appreciate the companionship that August offered. I felt less lonely when it was just me and him in the house. I talk to him, and I swear he comprehends half of what I say to him. My dog throws shade, gives attitudes and laughs at my jokes- all which are excellent qualities in a friend.4. Feel Good Feelings
4. Feel Good Feelings
Petting your animal can release endorphins and oxytocin, those feel good hormones in the brain that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Your dog loves it, your brain loves it- it's a win win situation really.
5. Portable Heater
My dog is a portable heater and I LOVE that quality in... well anyone really. He's hot, so I welcome him to lay anywhere near me to warm me up. Heat is comforting to me, especially if I'm not feeling well. I'm a "suffocate me under 26 blankets" kind of human, so his warmth brings me much comfort. SIDE NOTE: A cuddle with a pup is not recommended for those goring through the "menopause" stage of chemo. You've been warned.
Just give me Jesus and a dog!