A few days ago I had a meltdown. I’m not proud of it, but it happened. I had one of those “nothing is going right- why does everything have to be so difficult?” days, and it ended with emotions that poured out of my eyes. I laid on my bed last night and threw myself a really ugly pity party. Somewhere during this tantrum, I opened my eyes to see my almost eleven year old shih tzu, Zoey, staring at me. When we locked eyes, she jumped on my chest and started licking my tears away. That was neither my finest nor most sanitary moment, but it warmed my heart on the most basic level. Pets love us- even when we’re throwing ourselves an unwarranted tantrum. My sweet Zoey laid with me the rest of the evening and into the next morning, because she loves in my spite of my dramatic self.
When you live with a chronic illness, life is difficult. Every day is difficult. It helps to have a buddy that doesn’t expect you to explain yourself. My Zoey-pup has led me to this conclusion- every person with a chronic illness needs a pet. Here’s why.
Pets give us a purpose.
I realize in writing this I’m ignoring the fact that many of those in my chronic illness family have children- and from what I hear, they’re demanding little boogers. (I hear you also have to pay for their clothes and education. My dog requires none of those things. Thank goodness!) For me, though, I have a husband who gets up and goes to work every morning. While I think that’s awesome (it keeps us off the street), it also makes me lonely. Before Zoey came to live with me (She lived with my mom until about 3 years ago), I had absolutely no reason to get out of bed. I would lie in bed until time for Joe to come home from work. I was sad and directionless and sick- those all felt like good reasons to stay in bed. Now, no matter how bad I feel I know I have to get up to walk Zoey. Some days it’s a hassle. My grumpy, elderly pup will take her sweet time while I lean against a porch rail trying not to faint while she’s finding the perfect spot to relieve herself. (Side note- What exactly are dogs sniffing for when they’re looking for a place to use the restroom? How do they know it’s the “right” spot? I’ll Google this later.) However, I would never make her suffer because I feel bad- even if it means following her around the back yard for ten minutes while she searches for THE spot.
Pets are intuitive.
Zoey understands my body better than I do. It’s not unusual for her to circle my feet and whine seconds before I start feeling like I’m going to faint. No, she isn’t trained to do that; she just picks up on what is happening. If I’m lying on the couch with an injury (dislocated hip, knee cap, shoulder, etc), Zoey wants to lay on whatever part is affected. She’s my own personal ten pound heating pad.
Years ago, when I first began having symptoms, Zoey came into my life. My mom and step dad knew I needed a buddy, and there was Zoey. She was a ridiculous little fur ball in a cage at an outdoor flea market. She kept biting her brother’s ear while he tried to sleep. To be honest, she reminded me of my own reckless enthusiasm when I wanted my brother to pay attention to me. I knew I wanted her to come home with me. Since that day, Zoey has somehow understood that she’s supposed to take care of me. She’s laid with me after surgeries and procedures. She’s helped me check for burglars. (Okay, technically, she doesn’t check for burglars, but I know if she sees someone she doesn’t know she’ll bark excitedly and wag her tail- so I make her go around corners to check for the unknown before me.) She’s made me laugh and licked away my tears more times than I can count. To be ten pounds of fluff and attitude, she totally gets me.
Pets keep life interesting.
Zoey has a million lovely qualities. She’s also a grumpy little monster. Seriously, she is not to be provoked; I have scars. In spite of her sweetness, she does some quirky things. Once I dropped her off at the kennel while I went to an out of town doctor’s appointment, and she bit the kennel owner and refused to come out of her cage. The owner was sending me texts that made it sound as though I had left a tiger in her care rather than a 10 lb fluff. Oops. My bad. You never know what she’s going to do.When you live the sick life, days can get long and boring.
If it weren’t for my pet, the most exciting or noteworthy part of my day might be medical. Zoey keeps life interesting. Sure- she sometimes she bites Joe or me, and I would prefer she refrain from such activities. Let’s be honest, though- her tiny teeth do a lot less damage than a lot of my maladies. Pets are great entertainment.
Pets are the best companions.
When I’m upset for no good reason, Joe wants me to explain what is wrong with me (or he’s totally oblivious, because he can’t understand my variation of female emotions- he’s a male). Zoey doesn’t want an explanation; she just wants me to feel better. Some days that’s more important. Joe is my partner- the other half of my team, but Zoey is the best little friend anyone could ever have. Whether she’s trying to heal me, bite me, or soothe my drama-fest, she’s perfect.
Having said all that, this little fluff turns eleven tomorrow (April 7th), and I’m pretty sure she deserves the biggest puppy party ever. (She’s not very friendly with other dogs, though, so it’s a human only puppy party.) She makes my life more fun, and I’m so wonderfully grateful for that.
Peace, love, and health, friends.
Oh yeah, and puppy kisses from Zoey.