I believe in healing power of animals. I am a twenty-one year old student living and coping with bipolar disorder. At times I feel very alone, very alienated. However, a soft nudge from a wet nose—even at the lowest points in my life’s journey–reminds me that I have a constant and unwavering companion. I have my dog.
Last year I suffered a severe manic episode. My thoughts were disorganized and I became increasingly paranoid, to the point where I would not leave the house for several days. My behavior frightened my friends. They did not know what to say to me and eventually stopped calling and visiting. Through this entire episode, there was one friend who never left my side…my dog, Dutchie. When I hid under the blankets on the bed for an entire day, because I feared that an attacker had gotten into the house, Dutch was under the covers with me. Every time I burst into tears she sat next to me, licking them away and allowing me to bury my face in her silky, black fur. Dutchie even listened to all of my repetitive ramblings. Finally, it was Dutchie who convinced me to overcome my irrational fears and regain my normal lifestyle.
Before I got ill, I took my dog jogging nearly every day. Dutchie is a petite shepherd mix, and she loves to run. When my episode began, our jogs came to an abrupt halt. I am sure that Dutchie knew that something was wrong, because she never bothered me during the height of my madness. As soon as I began showing signs of competency, she started subtly reminding me of our routine. She began by lying on the floor and staring at her hot pink leash. Then, Dutchie began dropping my ipod in my lap. When she started to bark at my orange and grey running shoes, I decided it was time to take the hint.
It was not easy for me to take my dog running again, and we began by only jogging down the street. The outside world still looked very sinister to me. When we passed people, Dutchie brought her body closer to mine and slightly raised her fur. I realized that she would not let anything harm me, and began taking her for longer jogs. Soon we ran around the block, around the neighborhood, and finally down to our six mile point at the lake. Dutchie never forgot to thank me with a slobbery kiss on the face upon our return home.
I believe that without the constant companionship of this mutt from the pound, I would not have regained control of my mental illness. Dutchie rekindled my faith in unconditional love and acceptance. Bernard Williams once said, “There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face”. I believe that animals have the power to heal people…perhaps they truly are angels in disguise.
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