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  • Writer's pictureAlex Rathbun

Pet therapy: how I've found healing in dog ownership

About a year ago, my husband and I moved into a pet-friendly apartment. My daydream of owning my own dog was actually feasible now! After many long talks (me begging) with my husband, we decided we could get a dog... But it had to be potty trained because we both worked full time.

Then came the decision - where do we adopt from? Chicago is full of animal shelters. Our main fear in adopting a dog was that an adoption shelter would be apprehensive to entrust us with an animal that would be left alone for ~10 hours/day while we worked (it turns out, they were very happy we were financially stable!). So I found and chose the shelter with the least amount of screening - haha! I looked for weeks online for a dog we wanted: a young lab mix, potty-trained, "low-energy". And then one day the shelter had the perfect dog listed online. We visited, I fell in love, we went home with Louie.*

Little did I know, Louie would become a sweet companion and an anxiety-reliever. To celebrate his 1 year adoption birthday, this week's Brightly Alex Mental Health Monday is dedicated to my dog.

Being home alone has been where I get most easily anxious these days. I am quick to become overwhelmed by the thought of a whole day or whole work week alone - 9ish hours of no social interaction is a lot for this extrovert! So, as I mentioned last week, I have been trying to be intentional about digging in deeper with my community.

However, sometimes human interaction is too hard to coordinate or I just need a small bit of love, and this is where my non-human friend comes in.

Louie has helped me with my anxiety in a lot of ways. Sometimes I just need to pet a happy, warm, snuggly being. Sometimes I need an excuse to go for a walk and breathe. Sometimes I need someone to greet me when I wake up or when I come home. Sometimes I need to be reminded that I'm loved. And he does all these things, with no apprehension!

If you've never had a good pet or you're not an animal person, there's a good chance you'll think I'm a little crazy to put so much emphasis on my dog's love. But the little dude has seen me in some of my most fearful moments, and he always meets me with joy. I'm so thankful for my buddy.

*I'd love to tell you more about the adoption process if you're interested. We had a great experience!

(I promise he loves me back)

If you have a furry friend that helps you emotionally, let me know! Post a pic or a comment below.

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