A reader is moved by this post:
I have sat in the waiting room of my vet’s office three times a week for the last two months, waiting while my beautiful Maine Coon gets subcutaneous fluids for his failing kidneys. I have seen an entire cross section of the population – all ages, all economic levels, many races, and definitely an abundance of both genders. It has been so heart-opening for me to watch people with their sick pets. There is an attachment that I don’t even see as I sit in the pediatricians office. The look of sweetness and aching pain on the faces of owners as they try to comfort their dog or cat is a lesson in pure love.
But what has struck me is the realization of that universal desire to love and be loved, to need to be cared for and to want to care for others. From the cranky old man in tears over his sick poodle to the hassled moms with the limping giant dog and crying toddlers, to the teenager cradling her sick cat fearing maybe the first loss in her life, the love and the care is the same. It’s such a beautiful window into our humanity. It has been quite the gift to my life to see it all.
Another reader shares his own relationship:
Thank you for sharing the post on pets and recovering from addictions. While I have some doubts about the efficacy of dolphin or wolf therapy (especially as a primary component of therapy), I can testify that pets can, and for me have, played a very helpful role in my ongoing treatment.
In March of this year I was at the end of my rope with depression and anxiety, had been feeling emotionally and physically isolated and was drinking too much. I tried to kill myself, and fortunately, had second thoughts and instead reached out to family for help. In the days immediately following I began a course of medication and therapy, as well as abstaining from alcohol. The first few weeks were, as you’d expect, tough. My primary focus was on taking my meds, making my therapy appointments and maintaining sobriety. But as I began to put pick up and reassemble the other parts of my life (like going back to work) I received a call from my brother-in-law one Saturday asking me if I wanted to get out of the house and go with him to the local animal shelter.
I did not have any intention of adopting a cat when I walked into the shelter. I was going with my brother-in-law because he and my sister were looking for a kitten. It was maybe a month after my suicide attempt, so I figured going with him would at least get me out of the house for a few hours. As soon as we walked into the room with the younger cats and kittens, he was chirping and mewing at us from his crate, rubbing up against the sides to be petted. All of the other cats/kittens remained sleeping or seemed a little skittish. But not this little black cat. He didn’t quite meet what my brother-in-law and sister were looking for, since he was a he and he was a little old to truly still be considered a kitten. But we asked if we could take him out of the crate and pet him. He was great, continuing to make his little cat chirps and purrs while batting at our hands.
I went home that day and mentioned to my mom what a great little cat I had seen. I told her that if I was going to get a cat, I’d want one like that. She and my father and I discussed it, and we all decided that, why not get a cat? If I liked this one so much and could provide him with a good home, why wouldn’t I adopt him?
So the next day I went back to the ASPCA, filled out the paperwork and within a day or two, I was taking the little guy home. Since that day in April, the cat, who I named Bogey, has become such a positive influence on my life and my recovery. Taking care of him provides a structure to my days, companionship in the moments where I feel lonely, but above all, and I cannot say it any better than you did; “[he can] break my spell of narcissism.” Bogey gives me something to care about and for every day that is bigger than me. There have been nights where I might be tempted to drink, and see him, and decide not to for his sake – not for mine.
I still am on medication and I still see my therapist each week. But I have 260 days of sobriety and without attempts at self-harm, and I don’t know if I could say that if I didn’t have that little face looking at me every day and his weird (he is a cat, after all) fits of insanity to make me laugh. Thank you for letting me share this.
Update from a reader:
This thread really hits home. I put my 13-year-old Belgian Malinois down in early June. Less than two weeks later, our newest and third dog Casey, who had been with us just over the year, went out one day and never came back. Three weeks ago we adopted a new dog to keep Miss Annie company. (One is never enough.) Today I called my vet to bring my oldest feline friend Tux to the vet tomorrow to say goodbye. I love my pets but damn, it’s been a rough year.
For much more along those lines, check out what was perhaps our most popular thread last year, “The Last Lesson We Learn From Our Pets“.