My little dog Douglas is not a registered emotional support dog, and yet he is the one whose furry back I spill my tears on whenever I have another outbreak of my chronic illness. As previously written about, I have some form of chronic skin condition, where my skin attacks me. According to the latest tests, I am not allergic to anything, but it is something in my blood that reacts to an external factor – to what? No one knows. And so, all I can do is manage the symptoms and hope that it goes away by itself, as it has done before in my life.
Needless to say, this can be hard. Mostly the skin rash or swelling comes up late at night, making it hard to sleep. In turn, this means that whomever I could seek out, is sleeping.
Except for Douglas. When I get up multiple times at night to try and take a scorching hot shower to alleviate my symptoms, he gets up with me – every single time. He doesn’t sleep when I lie awake in pain. When I curl up, itching, he paw me to massage him instead of scratching my rash.
Douglas follows me to the balcony in the deep winter and shivers on my lap as the cold soothes my itching far enough for us to cuddle up again as I try to sleep. He appreciates being used as one of those anti-stress balls – you know, the ones that you massage and squeeze for emotional calm. He licks my tears away when I am sad and tries to telepathically heal me with his stare. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work, but I do appreciate the effort. It’s incredible what capacity for unconditional love a dog has.
I am very grateful for all the support I get from my family and friends, but what helps me most is that cuddle from my furry friend who doesn’t judge or try to give unsolicited (and often unfounded) advice. He’s just there for me on ruff days and pawfect ones, providing comfort when I need it and trying to make me laugh with his antics.
I wish I would have registered him as an emotional support dog when he was younger. Emotional support dogs are service animals, meaning they are allowed everywhere with you, often free of charge. We are talking about restaurants, hotels, airplanes. My precious pet frequently travels with me, but there are limits, and sometimes, when I need Douglas’ consoling wet nose, I am miles away, and the closest I can get to him is to check in with his doggie sitter.
Often, I notice that people don’t understand the close bond I have with Douglas. They find it far-fetched (pun intended) that I make it a criterion for accepting a job that he can come with me, or that I drive him 200 miles to my sister when I travel further, just because that is where he is happiest without me.
All I can say to them is that for almost 14 years now, Douglas has been there for me through every personal crisis. From losing both my parents, to family accidents and health issues, to broken relationships, to losing jobs, to being scared about life, he is there for me.
He’s also shared many of the happy moments in my life, big and small, and often made them happen. We love going to sidewalk cafes together to people & pet watch; even in the winter when Douglas almost turns into a pup-sicle. When traveling we always seek out doggie friendly Restaurants, I mean, a dog’s gotta eat, right? As I work, Douglas works hard on motivating me to take a break in between and take him for a walk and stop a moment to enjoy the fresh air. And in the summer, we love going to the lake together to enjoy any water activity from swimming to surfing to sailing. It’s because of the bond we have that I work hard so my dog can have a good life. And, guess what, that actually means I have a good life. For almost 14 years he’s made me smile every day without fail, even on my darkest ones. And who needs drugs, when you can have a dog? Ok, obviously, sometimes you need treatments, but in my case, the best therapist has fur and four legs.
“I am because my little dog knows me” – Gertrud Stein
Find out more about emotional support dogs …
….and how to register yours: