I like dogs. I like them way more than cats. Cats are assholes. My feelings about cats may be influenced by the fact that I am deathly allergic to them. Those assholes.
I had seen the news specials where dogs are used to help people pick shit up and stuff. It seems they are also being used very successfully to help ill minds. I used to think that this was all very nice and pretty stinking adorable, but it wasn’t science. It wasn’t medicine. Then I had my own experience with dogs and crazy.
Dogs know crazy. They have an ability to feel when their owner is becoming unbalanced. Sometimes the dogs know before the people do. I have three dogs. I really like them and could go on and on about them, but I’m going to try and just tell you what happened on the day I landed in the psych ward and my experience with a therapy dog once I was there. My dogs (pictured above) have a great pack thing going. They each have their place and know what it is. Unfortunately, I had no say in how these dogs settled into their pack. This has resulted in an alpha male Beagle, an overly friendly and passive German Shepherd, and their dumber than a brick younger sister, Rescue Pup. Beagle runs the show, German Shepherd tries to stay out of the way, and Rescue Pup is just happy to be wherever she happens to be.
The day I landed in the hospital started with a panic attack. There is stress, there are anxiety attacks, and then there are PANIC ATTACKS. For me, a panic attack is when I start having physical reactions to stress that I can’t control. I was in bed that day with a racing heart and I couldn’t catch my breath. Rescue Pup and Beagle were on the bed, enjoying they show. German Shepherd dog jumped up on the bed and growled at the other two dogs. This never happens. Ever. He growled and chased the other two dogs off the bed with a couple of nips. He then laid down next to me, but his head and paws on my chest, and stood guard. In my beautiful memory of this Lassieworthy event, I forget to mention that he is 140 pounds and not very comfortable to have on one’s chest, but I’m trying not to spoil the moment. He didn’t leave my room until I was breathing normally again and my heart rate had slowed down. This is my experience with my dog. All three dogs have become aware of how I’m doing and will either try to cheer me up or keep me safe when I’m having a bad day. Good Dogs. Not science, not medicine, but it sure does help when I’m ill.
My first experience with a certified, official therapy dog came on day three of my hospital stay. People who like dogs sometimes tend to like the size, breed, temperament of certain dogs. This also means that they can dislike a certain breed of dog, just because. It isn’t the dog’s fault. I have always steered away from pugs. I don’t know what it is. It may be the way they snort when excited. It may be their odd little faces which I can’t exactly decide on as cute, ugly, or cute because they are ugly. Totally my personal opinion and not a reflection of the pug breed. Got it, pug lovers.
Back to my story… Hospital, day three, I was sitting on the institutionalized style couch, doing a lot of nothing, doing my depressed thing, and in walks this pug in a vest. A vest!!! I swear this will forever be one of the top 10 days of my life! I had never been so happy to see a dog. I snapped out of my haze and headed straight for that glorious little snorting, flat faced, four legged, bundle of awesome. I snuggled the shit out of that pug. It was the most therapeutic moment I have ever had.
Not science. Not medicine. Just right.