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The healing power of Animals

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I know I’ve written plenty about how I just want to sleep alone in my bed with the remote control all to myself, snuggling with my cuddly puppy and being Ms. Independent, yada yada yada.  I think I may have introduced you to Chewbacca, my Pekingese Shih-tzu who is both my best little furry bud as well as my arch nemesis sometimes….here, I’ll insert a couple of photos here.

img_8360Ok, admittedly, I may be his arch nemesis sometimes.  No dogs or lashes were harmed in the taking of this photo.

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Chewy is my dog.  He was gifted to me by my Sister and ex husband back in 2011 for Christmas and he’s been my Ride or Die Side Kick ever since.  He sleeps in my bed, he freely climbs in my lap for cuddles, he lets me kiss his face and put him in goofy t-shirts from time to time.  He draws the line at Christmas Santa outfits with reindeer ears….we found that out the hard way.

I don’t think I’ve ever introduced you to Lucy, however.  Lucy aka Lucy-Goose is my daughters Emotional Support Animal.  Back before the divorce, when she was still in High School she had a really hard time managing her anxiety and depression.  She was a junior in high school and her schedule was overloaded with Advanced classes and a lot of pressure was on her.  This was also during the time of my shattering marriage to her father and ultimately its demise in her senior year of high school.  There was a lot going on.  My daughter had been researching Emotional Support Animals and asked if we could explore the option of one for her.  We went to our local shelter and told them what we were looking for and they introduced us to Lucy.  She had been at the shelter for about 9 months and had never so much as barked.  We asked to meet her in the family meeting room and when my daughter sat on the ground to get to Lucy’s level, Lucy walked right over and curled herself into my daughter’s lap.  She looked at me, I looked at the dog, we all started crying and the deal was struck.  Lucy was coming home with us.

Lucy, as far as we can determine is a mix of Boston Terrier, Pitbull and maybe a little bit of Boxer.  She has a LOT of energy when everyone in her life is healthy – like full on methamphetamine crack-monkey ADHD squirrel energy.  But when someone is in need, or hurting, she gets calm and attentive.

Lucy began her work immediately and knew who her person was.  Lucy has a gift.  She senses when people need her.  When someone is upset or in need of some Lucy Magic she walks right up to them, gives them a sniff, and then leans against their legs.  That’s her sign – as if to say “I know you need me, and I am here to love you.”  I’ve seen her climb into the laps of complete strangers, lean against the legs of people who I know are going through a tough time and seek people out who need a smile with her zany antics.

My divorce was final on a Friday.  I went to court, stood before the judge, wept, came home, drank a bottle of red wine in the bathtub, opened a bottle of Champaign and took to my bed, hardly emerging at all for a full 48 hours.  Lucy was there.  Every twenty minutes or so she would hop on the bed, sniff my face, lay down for a few minutes to see if I wanted to stroke her and then jump back onto the floor again -never straying more than a few feet from me the whole weekend.  That dog was an anchor for me.  She helped me just by being there and letting me know she cared.  That’s the healing power of animals.

We live in apartment, so the dogs have to go out several times a day.  It was sometimes the only time I saw the outside world, and had to be sober enough to walk the dogs without falling into the grass in those first few months.  I had to keep my shit together not only for my daughter who had just lost her father and her family, but for the animals who still needed to be fed, cared for and kept alive.  Sometimes responsibility is the best medicine when you feel like you could just become a slimy, bubbly, decomposing pile of goo if left to your own devices.

Flash forward to now – post healing from the divorce, post daughter graduating from high school and starting a career working with animals, diving into a passion for the study of bugs, spiders and most critters of any size or species and we still have all of our animals.  Chewy is still my grumpy old man stuck in the fuzzy body of an Ewok and Lucy is still our Crack-Head ESA (Emotional support animal) stuck in the sleek body of an oversized Boston Terrier with a ferocious bark when defending the homestead, we’ve discovered.  Right now, I’m home sick in bed with what Teledoc is calling Strep Throat by the description I gave him over the phone, so I’ve got antibiotics, cough drops, hot tea with honey and lots of Netflix….and I’ve got Lucy.  Once again, Lucy has taken on the job of nursemaid.  Every two hours or so she jumps into bed with me and gives me a snoozle (Snoozle: the act of touching noses with your human, possibly licking a cheek and deeply sniffing the ear while your human recoils in giggles, resulting hopefully in belly rubs and ear scratches.) and then she will lay down next to me for a quick snooze before jumping down to patrol the living room, bark at other dogs walking past our apartment or napping in the sunshine.

Lucy is still doing what Lucy does best.  Loving people.  She is quite possibly the happiest dog I’ve ever met.  She is simply happy to be alive.  No one can have an interaction with Lucy and not smile.  She is just that happy and that is part of her magic.  She’s packed full of about 50 pounds of pure joy and love.

I will never regret bringing Lucy into our home.  She may be a Crack Head who seems to be unwilling to learn how to NOT jump on people when they come to visit, often hitting gentleman callers in sensitive places….almost on purpose, but she also is easily trained if given enough time and consistency.  She loves without prejudice and unconditionally, she smiles easily and only aggravates Chewy sometimes, and I love the way she loves our family.

Do you have a Lucy in your life?  Tell me about your healing animals in the comments! I’d love to hear about them.

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