Is this just an excuse to post lots of pictures of my dog? Read on to find out!
This dog has changed my life in so many wonderful ways.
Both Laurence Gonzales and Victor Frankl write about how one of the keys to resilience is in finding someone or something to care about outside of yourself.
My partner and I adopted Lucy nearly four years ago. She was a California stray who'd been given five days to live in a kill shelter, and was rescued by the Raincoast Dog Rescue Society on Vancouver Island. My partner found her in a Craigslist ad; she wanted a pitbull and I wanted a lab, and Lucy was listed as a mixture of both.
A week after we saw the ad, I drove across to Victoria and brought Lucy back with me. (Her name was Addie, then.)
By the way, if you're in BC, I really recommend Raincoast as an adoption source. They questioned us thoroughly about our home situation and what we were looking for in a dog, and what we were willing to provide for her.
It was clear they had Lucy's best interests at heart, and after the adoption they remained in contact with us to help both us and Lucy get accustomed to her new home.
I'd been dealing with depression that summer, and while I would never suggest that adopting an animal will cure mental illness, bringing Lucy into our lives definitely helped.
I spend a lot of time in my own head, isolated with my thoughts, often in a pretty harmful feedback loop. Having Lucy forced me to think of something other than myself; I took dog ownership seriously, and I really focused on her training, exercise, diet, etc. This meant less time for me to be ruminating on my own dissatisfactions.
Shortly after we adopted Lucy, the loft that we were renting was put up for sale. The sale was a long, drawn-out and stressful process, but one benefit was that Lucy and I took up hiking, in order to be out of the way for the weekly open houses that stretched for five months.
We both really, really loved exploring Vancouver's many beautiful trails, and obviously the exercise was beneficial for both of us.
I would tell people that my new writing regimen involved walking Lucy ten kilometres in the morning so that she would sleep all afternoon and give me some time to work.
Lucy really helped my relationship with my partner, too. Though we were both pretty busy, we found when we made time in the evening to take Lucy out for a walk, we really benefited from having that hour or so just to be together.
And there's nothing more attractive, at least I found, than watching your partner care for an animal you care about, too. I found it really opened up a side of my partner that I hadn't ever seen before, and I really enjoyed watching them interact.
Lucy was a project we could work on together. Her training and her care brought us together, as did simply laughing about all of the goofy stuff she got herself into.
Of course, the relationship didn't last forever, and when my partner left, I assumed care of Lucy full-time.
This was pretty beneficial, too.
There were days when I was so depressed that I didn't want to get out of bed, but the dog needed to go out for a pee and be walked and be fed.
There were days when I didn't want to live, but the dog needed me.
There were days when all I wanted to do was lie on the couch and cuddle with Lucy and pretend like the world didn't exist, and the dog was there to be cuddled and give me slobbery kisses and do something goofy that invariably lifted my spirits.
There were days when I didn't want to talk to anyone, but people would stop us on the street to pet Lucy and ask me about her, and these brief, positive interactions invariably buoyed my mood, too.
It's no exaggeration to say that this dog saved my life.
She's still doing it, to this day.
I know that this can't last forever. Lucy is a living being with a finite lifespan, and one day she'll get old and get sick and die, and it will destroy me to lose her.
I'm terrified of that day. I imagine all dog owners can relate.
But I hope when it comes, I can take solace in the fact that I've given her a wonderful, happy life full of love.
And she's given that life right back to me, too.