If you have ever had the chance to love a pet, you know what an angel looks like. I think pets (I may be biased toward dogs specifically) are embodiments of many things not all of us get the chance to experience in our lives: unconditional love, relentless gentleness, undeserving forgiveness, and endless joy. My dogs have taught me many things, supported me through the darkest times, and help me cope with my depression and anxiety daily. How exactly can a furry friend do that?
At the core, they teach me love, gratefulness, and joy. On days I am pinned under the weight of depression, my dogs appear with the calmness or happiness I need to make it through. My graceful greyhound lays her head on my lap and nudges me with her cold nose. “Mom, I’m here,” she seems to say.
When my thoughts are spiraling in my head – fears, worries, and catastrophes – my chihuahua puppy jumps into my arms with a chew toy in tow. He is the happiest living thing I’ve ever seen. In his energetic, goofy personality, and his carefree saunter, I find peace.
When I pet and spend time with my dogs, I can feel my pain melting away. Scratching their ears or cuddling them puts me right in the present – right where I should be. Giving them a bath, walking them around the block, and tugging their toys away all require me to be here in the moment. Right here, right now, in this space. Sometimes just being present in the moment can help me think more rationally.
I learn a lot from dogs: How to appreciate the little things and how to give others grace. When I accidentally step on their tail and they take less than 20 seconds to love me again, they teach me what forgiveness looks like. Dogs teach me that joy is always right around the corner: a treat, a meal, a nap, a moment to explore, and time spent with friends.
Dogs teach us to slow down, stop (and literally smell the roses), and they somehow know to comfort you when you’re feeling the weight of the world.
My dogs pull me out of bed in the morning on the days my depression is too loud. They have to be fed, taken out, and snuggled. It feels good to take care of them. When my depression tells me, “You are incapable. You are worthless,” my dogs show me – prove to me – that I at least have one purpose, and that they need me. I need them just as much, and I’m lucky to have them. They show me that if the depression cloud looms over me and nothing feels right in my life, at least I have their love to sustain me.
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