The long and the short of it is that acquiring a psychiatric service dog gave me back my life. You don’t go into the lion’s den without taking safety precautions and having a back up plan for when things go awry. That’s how I feel about having a psychiatric service dog. She is my ally and support; my back up plan when the world starts closing in.
When I was a kid I had one of those blow up, clown faced, punching bags. Theoretically you could kick or punch the clown, knock him to the ground and the sand filled based ensured the bag would right itself.
That’s how I’ve come to view and understand my situation. When circumstances knock me off my center I need to take extra time and energy to right my ship before tending to the environment. The dog does precisely that, she is my buffer helping me to prioritize inner needs over that of the environment.
I remember one particularly egregious panic attack. It was a cool autumn day and Rosie and I were walking home after having spent a relaxing morning over coffee and journal writing. As we walked all was calm and peaceful, to my right the street was deserted and to my left was an empty expanse of green grass dotted with soccer goals and park benches. Suddenly and inexplicably my heart was pounding so hard I feared it would explode from my chest.
“Rosie, I’m having a panic attack,” I had the presence of mind to say and we stumbled toward the closest park bench. I sat down and very uncharacteristic of Rosie, she jumped up beside me and sat gazing outward, protecting me and keeping the world at bay. She made me feel safe, safe enough to let go concerns for the outside environment in favor of the inner. That day, instead of trying to step over or push through it, I became an observer to the panic and turmoil that lives inside me.
Dogs live without judgement. They also live in the moment. That is unexpected gift they bring to my life. My panic, depression, suicidal thoughts and anxiety are never going away. They are complications to my journey and not unlike a broken leg or cancer. My service dog helps me to stay fiercely proactive about the challenges that I face.
My first psychiatric service dog, Rosie, who is featured in the header, is currently enjoying her well deserved retirement and this presumptuous upstart, Ivy, is working very hard to fill her formidable paws.