Ever since I was little, I wanted a dog.
Something adorable and smelly to chase around the backyard. To sneak my vegetables to under the table when I didn’t want to eat them. To cuddle up with on cold winter nights.
Well, it took 27 years, but I finally got that dog.
I’ve mentioned my lovable mutt before, but this duder definitely needed another post. He is the weirdest dog around, complete with his mohawk, long legs, and the worst breath in the history of dogs. We have no idea what breed he is – we fluctuate between declaring him some sort of a variety of terrier, Chinese-crested, tiny fox, gremlin, and tumbleweed. My partner and I also gave him the weirdest name in the entire world – JeffBridges. He may be a little different, but you better believe he’s my best friend.
Let’s just say, our pupper roommate is essentially me in dog form. He’s little and scruffy, with the attitude and stubbornness of a dog much larger than he is (we are both practically Great Danes). He also comes with his own idiosyncrasies and anxieties.
Case in point – my dog is terrified of the dishwasher. When we turn it on, he goes into a shaky panic attack, trembling in terror. It’s strange because his reaction seemed to come out of nowhere. We lived in our house for a year and happily ran our dishwasher with no doggy issue. However, about a year ago, the panic started. Like me, our dog doesn’t just hide when he’s anxious. Our dog wants everyone to know that he is uncomfortable. He climbs on you, digs into blankets, pants in your face – you name it, he does it. JB wants to crawl inside my mouth to escape his terror. He is far more reliant on me during his times of panic than my partner, which leaves me feeling helpless.
We have tried calming treats, relaxing music and anxiety wraps- to no avail. His anxiety increases mine drastically. I feel sad and overwhelmed that there is nothing I can do (short of hand washing all my dishes, which – let’s be real – this is never going to happen as I am the laziest human alive). It upsets me so much is that I have been there. I have had panic attacks and struggle with anxiety daily. It breaks my heart that my best friend has to struggle through the same stress. Also, this terror can’t be good for his little heart.
That being said, aside from his dishwasher disdain and his occasional grump behaviour on walks, my dog is a key part of my recovery. When anxiety prevents me from leaving my house – or even my bed – he is more than happy to cuddle up and nap. He is excited to see me, whether I’ve been gone for 30 seconds or for 3 hours. I never come home to an empty home, which helps reduce my loneliness. On days where I struggle to get out of bed before noon, our pup makes me get up to let him out. When the weather is nice, I have an excuse to leave the house to take him on a walk. He will not judge me if I eat junk food and watch hours of Netflix, as long as he’s invited.
For me, my dog goes hand in hand with the other things in my self-care arsenal to manage my generalized anxiety disorder. Medication, cognitive behavioural therapy, mindfulness, scheduling my life, exercise, eating well, and petting dogs. Obviously the last one is the easiest.