I knew from the moment that I met him, I loved him. When he was handed to me for the first time he licked my face vigorously and nuzzled his little mussel into my neck. I looked at my new puppy and realized I wouldn’t allow anything to harm us. He needs me and I need him. He is my baby, that is bringing me the much needed emotional comfort I’ve wanted for years.
My puppy, Kauffman Perez Peterson (I’m a huge Royals fan if you can’t tell) and I started the journey to each other a month before we finally met. In December, I hit a rough patch in my life. I don’t know why the thought occurred to me, but I started looking into getting a dog.
I’ve always grown up with cats so the prospect of getting a dog was kind of crazy to everyone in my life. Yet, something inside me said that this was going to help me.
Once I got Kauffman I saw a quick change in my life. I went from being anxious and upset to calm and focused. See, before I had Kauff all my mind could focus on was myself. What I was feeling, what was going on in my life, what was happening to me.
For some people that sounds self-absorbed, but if you have depression or anxiety you know that train of thought. The one that consumes your quiet moments that say, “you are not enough, because…” or “this person doesn’t care about you.” My dog dulls this voice because he doesn’t care if I am enough, what’s happening in my relationships or what’s going on emotionally.
All he cares about is getting treats, playing with his stuffed baseball and snuggling. This allows me to focus on taking care of him, instead of the doubts that fill my head.
When the idea of getting an emotional support dog first game up, I was embarrassed. I've heard all the jokes about flimsy people and their dumb excuses to have their pets with them. I saw the pictures of the crazy “emotional support” animals on planes and the side eye people give to dogs in Target.
So, telling my friends and family I was getting an emotional support dog was hard. I laughed at it, making fun of it, but deep down I knew it would help. Even if some people would laugh at me for it.
The backlash to people having emotional support animals, I believe, comes from two things: people actually taking advantage of the system and a deep discomfort of the visibility of mental health problems.
Yes, there are people out there who buy their animal vests and claim that they are for their emotional health. There are people who claim a snake, a mini horse or a turkey as their emotional support animals in order to get them on their plane or in an apartment.
Just this past week it was announced that Delta was going to crack down on this. Which is a great thing. People should not see something that is honestly used to help people as an opportunity for self-gain.
Out of the respect of people who actually need this therapeutic device, it is not cool to take advantage of this system. When it is, people who need their animal are not believed or are made to feel bad, because of these actions.
For the people who do actually use their pet as a therapeutic device, it can be hard to disclose the reasoning behind your furry friend. Mental health is a scary thing to talk about and we live in a world where it is still difficult to talk about mental illness.
So, instead of looking at people who use alternative methods to relieve symptoms of a mental health issue as brave, some choose to laugh at it or say it is not real. It makes some people feel more comfortable to make light of this visual representation of relief rather than applaud someone for making that visual choice to get help.
To those who do use their animal for relief, continue to do it. You are brave and it is wonderful that you have sought ways to get help. Getting help is hard, but worth it.
Getting an emotional support dog has helped me laugh again, just at his silly personality and not at the idea of having him to help me. My journey with Kauffman has just begun. We’ve been together for less than a month, but I already see how much he’s helped change my life.
He gets me out of bed in the morning, he forces me to get dressed and helps make that cruel voice quiet. I love him and he comforts me.