Puppy Love

In late July Edmond Animal Shelter announced it was out of beds for dogs. I had flirted with the notion of adoption for months, but my husband was on an entirely different page. So I did what any self-respecting non-practicing lawyer would do: I built a case.

I need a service dog. Those are expensive and the wait is long when you can afford one. So I got it in my head that if I had a puppy, the puppy could fulfill at least part of the role of a service dog. She wouldn’t be a service animal, of course. She would be the next best thing. The thing I could afford in the moment.

The data I collected ranged from animal shelter numbers to research on the role animals play in mitigating mental illness. It’s not that my husband didn’t want a dog. It was that we have no fenced yard, which he thought was a dealbreaker. I argued that part of the purpose of the dog was to get me out of bed in the morning, to get me out of my house every day, to keep me to a schedule.

In his most loving and tender voice, he said, “You aren’t very reliable. I’m afraid you won’t be able to keep up after a couple of weeks.”

Ouch. He’s not wrong to have fear. Mental illness messes with everybody’s sense of safety and soundness.

Somehow, I convinced him (or he convinced himself), and we went to the shelter on a hot afternoon. There we found the most improbable dog. They shelter had several puppies, and I was interested in most of them. When we arrived, the puppies clung to each other or huddled in the backs of their kennels. All except the one puppy I hadn’t even considered: Jada, a pit bull terrier mix.

Jada was immediately friendly. She danced in our arms and wagged her tail, sniffing all over us. She chose us, and so we chose her. We brought her home to the excitement of all and we renamed her Cara Mel Salisbury.

We’ve practiced leash training since bringing her home. She is on the leash, which is connected to me, all the time except at night when she is sleeping in her kennel. This has been a new experience for me. A delightful one!

Cara wakes at six every morning, ready to eat and go outside. My husband supports this as a sort of mitigation of mine and so he does not get up with her. Cara and I go for a morning walk most mornings–we’ve been off walks this week due to allergies (mine). She eats at noon and six in the evening. Every midafternoon, Cara plays tug and fetch and all manner of games. Most evenings, we go for another walk together. She goes to bed at nine every night.

As someone who oversleeps, this has been a revelation. The sleep pressure can be so strong at times, but sticking with a schedule helps more than I could’ve imagined. As someone with recurrent major depression, I can say that having Cara has helped me crawl outside the hole of myself, see sunlight, and move my body. As someone with anxiety, I can say it’s good to have someone around.

Thankfully, I can also say that my husband’s fears have not become true. It’s now the end of September, and we’ve had Cara for two months. I take care of her, and she doesn’t know it but she takes care of me.

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