For The Love of Dogs
MENTAL PAWS: Taking a break from the stressors in life, one paw at a time
Dogs have long been part of my life. I think I’ve slept with a dog in the bed since I left the crib. You can read about the dogs of my 47 years in this article I wrote back in May. Their fluffy paws, sweet snuggle, and non-judgmental looks have always found a way into my heart and soul.
The past few months have been a rough time in my life personally and professionally. I found solace in the 105-pound golden fluffer waiting for me at the door, and who occasionally came to work with me. It was time to expand the family, so we also brought a new Golden Retriever puppy into our life, adding chaos to mayhem.
It was when I got a breakthrough case of COVID an idea hit me. This seemed like a great time to get my affairs in order, as we spend too many years thinking we are invincible and don’t plan for life when we are gone. I coordinated with the “executor or my estate”, which is nothing more than a sad bank account, an overly filled closet of clothes, a few family heirlooms, and my two dogs. The rest was just “stuff”.
As my executor (aka Best Friend) and I coordinated our plans for what happens when we are gone, we both wanted to leave a legacy behind. He was clear on what he wanted to have honor his memory when he was gone. All I could say was “Create something that combines mental health help with the love of pets.” I even wrote a manifesto to present to this fictitious organization long after I was gone.
That statement stayed with me though as the days went on. I said to myself “Why wait until you are dead? Do something NOW!”.
That’s how the idea of Mental Paws came up. We all need a “Pause” in our lives to step back from a mentally unhealthy situation. For pet owners, we seek that comfort in the faces of our animals. We can tell them anything. We open up our hearts and minds when pets are around.
Right now, it’s just an idea in progress. I’ve created an Instagram Account for Mental Paws, using pictures of pets from my own arsenal, working on a website, and asking friends for photos and comments about pets.
I was not prepared for the response.
“I LOVE what you are doing with Mental Paws. I was diagnosed a while back with some mental health disorders. It can be very lonely and unrelenting. Just have your 4legged friend by your side makes a world of difference. I found myself in a very, very dark place a few years ago. At that time, I had lost my feline child and we had adopted a new puppy. My cat was always my savior. There for me no matter what. It’s like this little baby knew something was off. She stayed by my side as much as she could. Which is saying a lot for a new puppy as I’m sure you know.”
“Thank you for doing this. I think it is a fantastic idea. Let me start by saying I have a great life. I do attribute that great life to having contestant companions who love unconditionally and never judge me or anyone else. I lost four dogs in a year and a half and as devastating as that loss is, these two bring continued joy and happiness in my heart. My own mental well-being would not be what it is without the love of dogs.”
“My dog is the reason I made it through 2020. A pandemic in a new city with little to no friends. She kept me sane and busy. On tough days her wet nose and bright smile cheer me up. After tough days at work we just lay on the floor and just cuddle to help me recharge. She knows when I’m struggling or haven’t gotten enough rest. She’ll bring me all her toys if I’m lying on the couch. I think she does it because they make her happy, so she thinks they’ll make me happy.”
“She’s 70+lbs of St. Bernard, Great Dane & Collie – she’s more like a service dog. She’ll give only me kisses anytime I ask and when I don’t, she can tell when I’m super stressed and walks over to me and has me pet her to calm me down, and she never leaves my side on walks. She’s the closest thing to a service dog I’ve ever had or seen. She’s truly amazing…and the family had to talk me into it when we rescued her.”
“Living life with MS, a stressful corporate job where I’m our bread winner, my husband’s handicap after his cancer battle, my dad’s death and my mom living with us while she battle the beginning stages of dementia… life gets hard to say the least… when we lost our previous dog I never thought I could love a dog again but then this Covid stray pup wandered into our lives and helps us all every single day.”
These are all people you’d see walking around and think that was a person who had their life together. You’d envy their confidence and comfort with themselves. They opened up to me and I’m honored to share their stories.
There’s something to this and I’m excited to be working on this “Pet” project.
I don’t know what it will be or where it will go from here, but I know I’m passionate about it. I know that dogs make the world better and I will always strive to be the person my dog thinks I am. I know when I fall way short of that goal, they’ll snuggle me anyway.
If you have a Mental Paws moment you’d like to share with me, or would like to collaborate, email Jennifer.firstname.lastname@example.org. I can use your name or keep confidential. You can also message me at the Mental Paws Instagram page.
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