Let’s make sure that my words mean more than my actions for this one. If you all start coming home with a bunch of 8 week old puppies at the ripe young age of 19, your parents are going to have a biiiiiig problem with you reading EmyD Blog. I also can’t be a hypocrite, though, because that’s exactly what I did.
I’ve talked a lot about my depression. 2014, 2016, and maybe even 2018 are definitely competing for the title “Worst Year of my Life.” I followed all of those Daily Dose of Puppy accounts on Instagram. My family has a dog, Cooper, who is a sweet baby. But, I couldn’t get the thought out of my head that if I had my own dog, my depression couldn’t possibly continue.
Let’s keep in mind that I was 19 years old. Although I was working to keep myself alive, my parents also had a hand in that process. I was living at their house after my panic disorder made me want to start commuting. So,they’d have to be okay with a new, furry roomie. My dad was not having it. If you know me, you know that eventually I convinced him, but there’s still a running joke that he’s not quite okay with the dog.
When Heather, an old classmate, said that her dogs were accidentally having a litter of teddy bear puppies, I couldn’t stop going back to the post. I mean, I couldn’t get a puppy. I was 19 years old. I found myself messaging Heather and asking all about the little babies: when they would be ready for new homes, about their breed, and about Heather’s dogs who had accidentally just had like 8 little polar-bear looking puppies. I started to think it might be a possibility. Heather and her family had a lot of people interested in the puppies – and wanted to find the homes that would love these little babies as much as they already did. I think my slight obsession with one of the little girls was enough proof that I would give her the best life and the best home.
The hurdle of trying to convince my parents that this would be a good thing was a big one. But, when he met her, I could see my dad was slowly but surely on my side. Her little 3 week old body was tiny, but I was already all in for being her dog mom.
At 8 weeks old, I brought home alittle white ball of fluff. She was 2 pounds that fit right in my hands. I decided to name her Nala after The Lion King, a Broadway show I would always share with my grandma. I loved my boyfriend, I loved my family, and I loved my friends. Loving Nala, though, was different. It was like this little life depended on me and no matter how many times I fucked up, she would love me just the same.
I got Nala certified to be an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) so that she could live with us in our college apartment. I had depression and anxiety that I was being treated for. My therapist even thought that an ESA would be beneficial to me. Though I didn’t really understand how much I would need her until my whole world came crashing down around me.
I hit rock bottom around the time that my 2 year relationship ended. Before that, I was struggling with depression. However, there’s something about begging for someone’s respect, time, and decency that just plummets you into the lowest of the lows. Looking back, I still don’t recognize the person I was at that time. Nala, however, was one of the only things that brought me comfort. The love coming out of that little tiny body was completely objective, undenying, and unending no matter where the demons in my brain had lowered me to that day.
Unlike with humans, your relationship with animals doesn’t need to be fostered. Once you have their trust and love, it’s pretty hard to lose it. In that time, I probably wasn’t the dog mom that she deserved – I wasn’t playing ball in the backyard with her, I wasn’t jumping out of bed to take her on a couple walks a day, and I wasn’t teaching her new things… But, she loved me just the same. I woke up with her at my feet every day. If anything, she depended on me for the basics of living, so I couldn’t get too out of hand.
Many dogs don’t need to learn skills like what to do if their owner is having a panic attack, but Nala knows. If she hears hyperventilating or even quiet sobbing, she’ll sit right in your lap. Nose to your nose, she’ll let her presence be known. 98% of the time I would describe her as a spazz – full of energy that I’ve seen since she was 8 weeks old. When I’m having those panicked moments though, she is so calm and gentle. It’s like she knows that all I need is her presence.
It all sounds so magical and amazing right now. Nala truly was the best decision that I made. I thank my lucky stars every day that I could a) bring my parents to the dark side with me and b) a Facebook friend having a litter of puppies that included my little baby. That doesn’t change the fact that having an animal is a huge commitment and when you’re struggling mentally, you’re usually not ready to take on that commitment. Nala’s breed is really anxious. When it comes to Nala, my family dog, Cooper, eases her anxiety. As I got my mental health under control, said goodbye to somewhat regular panic attacks, and moved out of the house, I made the tough decision to let Nala stay at home with my parents and brother.
Honestly, it is something that gives me anxiety. It makes me feel like I failed or like I’m not taking responsibility. Weighing the pros and cons, though, Nala needs the schedule of my parent’s 9 to 5. She needs a big backyard and a house to lounge in, not an apartment surrounded by zero grass in a big city. Nala needs Cooper just like he needs her. So, for the time being, Nala will stay where she’s most comfortable. I will never forget how she got me through the worst moments of my life, purely by being there.
What do YOU use for emotional support? Let me know in my DMs on IG, Twitter, or Facebook (@EmyDBlog) or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org today! I’d love to hear your story!