My dog, Liam, and I have been battling anxiety together for almost 3 years. For anybody who has seen the movie Coco, and somehow didn't expatriate yourself to a cave to live out your days contributing to the sea with your tears, and decided instead to maintain access to technology in order to read this... Liam is my spirit guide. If you have not seen Coco yet, it's a tearjerker. Bring tissues. And your therapist if they're willing.
I adopted Liam from Helping Hounds Dog Rescue on July 11, 2015, at the height of my quarter-life crisis, and after my physician prescribed me Xanax and a pet after another tearful outburst in her office. I was 25, on the awkward edge of almost single, hated my call center job, and was bombarded by well meaning friends and family with every reason why getting a dog was a terrible idea. I didn't care. In hindsight, if you have to pay your dogs adoption fees on a credit card because you only make $30K a year, you're probably not in a good financial position for said dog. How could you have known that every vet appointment would cost you approximately one car payment? Or that he would never play with the pile of toys you bought him because he's afraid of them? Or that while your human body was running on $1 cheeseburgers, you'd have no problem serving him Blue Buffalo's Life Protection Formula Chicken and Brown Rice with LifeSource Bits to the tune of about $50 a bag?
That's true love. He was and is worth every penny and minute spent on him. He is the best thing I've ever done for myself and my mental health. You'd spend $50 a bag on this face too. Here he is eating his feelings in ice cream, while somehow still looking worried about something, just like his Mom.
He was found in a drainage ditch in Texas before making his way into and out of a high-kill shelter, into a Texas foster home, and finally up to New York to be put up for adoption. I adopted him before he even got here. I saw his picture, took one look at his glorious, old man eyebrows, and called to say I wanted him. On the phone, they told me if I was looking for a playful, exuberant puppy, I did not choose the right one. They told me he was a nervous wreck and very anxious. I assured them, I was too. Even in dogs, being anxious is considered a deficiency. As if we anxious bitches are less adoptable because we won't jump up and lick your face. I came to find out he also had worms, but that's completely besides the point.
The morning after he arrived from Texas, I showed up a half-hour before Helping Hounds opened. I pressed my nose to the glass like that obnoxious customer who hopes if a staff person sees them, they'll decide to open the store a few minutes early, even though we all know that staff person wants to spit the scalding coffee they didn't get to finish into our face. Helping Hounds did not open early, and the staff enjoyed their coffees at their leisure as I was having a conniption in their parking lot.
When the doors finally opened, a woman emerged and asked if I was Caitlin. They must have somehow made the connection that the high strung woman on the phone, who called 3 times in the last week to ensure her dog was still coming and they weren't going to give him away to somebody else, was the same woman who would show up a half hour early. I said yes. They told me my dog was too nervous to leave his crate or walk out to me, so they would have to go get him and carry him out. My heart broke. When she returned, my dog in her arms, his tail was so far between his legs in fear I thought it might come out of his nose, it was love at first site.
Once all the paperwork was signed, and he was officially mine, I proceeded to drive at a literal 15 miles per hour home, afraid if I drove too fast he might disappear. We made it home, and he now spends his time hiding beneath his eyebrows, snuggling, giving staunch side eyes, pouting when he needs to poop, falling asleep on me as I read or play music, and not playing with balls. He is, however, the fastest dog alive and loves to run.
We're still anxious messes, though both of us are showing significant signs of progress. For example, while there is not an aggressive bone in his fluffy body, in the past year he's discovered his inner wolf. Now, if you come up my stairs too quickly, or come near me when I'm sleeping he feels brave enough to growl and bark. After a short courtship of treats, Liam now enjoys a genuine, mutual adoration with my boyfriend and is showing more trust in people. Sometimes, he eats grass and growls at the refrigerator. I eat everything else and growl at people. We are two peas in a pod.
All of this is to say, if you can (and are not an irresponsible garbage person), I highly recommend a pet for those suffering from anxiety or depression. Especially a dog. If I wanted to spend my day in bed, this fluff reminded me that I needed to go outside, at least long enough for him to go pee. And once I was there, in the fresh air and sunshine, a lot of the time I didn't crawl back into bed. If I felt embarrassed for needing to cry, yet again, Liam reminded me that dogs love licking your salty face afterwards and that our angsty loss is their salty gain, and they love you for it. Dogs are better than people. And in my case, I seriously wonder who the hell saved who. Cheers to you, Liam <3
ang·sta /ˈaNGstə/ (n) - one who suffers from angst, but has a good sense of humor about it.
Angsta Rap is NOT a substitute for diagnosis or treatment from a professional. For more information visit:
National Institute of Mental Health or HelpGuide.org