My dogs are my lifeline.

I have three German Shepherds.  The Big One is six, the Middle Child is four and the Young Man is just four months old.  The oldest is my husband’s but the younger two are mine.

When I got my Middle Child, I was in the throes of a depression.  Work was challenging, my marriage wasn’t going well to say the least and my bipolar wasn’t having any of it.  Bringing a puppy into my world gave me a lifeline. It stirred  feelings of love and wonder and joy.  I told her that, too.  I told her that I didn’t think I had the ability to feel those things any longer.  Finding out I was still capable of feeling those things came just in time.

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Middle Child turned out to have a very nervous disposition and is an extremely ‘vocal’ dog.  I’ve had her to numerous obedience courses (including class given by one of  the leading police/drug dog trainers) and even left her with one of my trainers for a week-long boot camp.  Upon re-examining her lineage, I believe the breeder misinformed us.  Her father is from German lines and is Schutzhund III but her mother…well, questionable at best.

Over the years, Middle Child has been a very difficult dog.  And that’s how she’s taught me so much.  Not just because it’s, ‘so wonderful for people with mental illness to have a pet because it forces them to think about another creature’s well-being, blah, blah, blah.  Blah blah.” BS.  I have such a special place in my heart for her because I can relate.

We aren’t perfect.  We have genetic flaws that no one can do anything about.  We are difficult.  But we love unconditionally.  I understand when she just barks at what goes by out the window because I have generalized anxiety disorder, too.  I understand when my son and husband become frustrated with her behavior because I put them through the ringer as well.  And I get when she has days where all she wants is a rub and a kiss and someone to sit with her in silent understanding.

Over the years we’ve developed an exceptional relationship.  Because I’ve accepted her and love her so much in spite of her flaws, and she feels the same about me.  If only I could feel that about myself.

Middle Child is no longer the youngest in the household.  Young Man entered the picture back in March.  One Sunday during my hospitalization, my family picked me up for a day-outing and we went to the breeder.  We all chose Young Man together and he came home forever in April.

I have a new puppy to train and to love, to learn about and he has lessons to teach me about myself, I am sure.  Yes, he and I have bonded and all is going extremely well.  But even if he and I wind up becoming Certified Trackers, I will always have a special place in my heart for my difficult girl who has taught me how to love imperfection, look at anxiety in a different way and learn how to find joy in life.

She saved me.

And to this day, I tell her that every now and then.

Beautifully, beautifully written and as the mother of three dog children, I found your post right-on, especially the part about realizing how frustrating having a mental illness can be for our spouses/families. My dogs are all just a little bit crazy and, like me, high maintenance. Their presence motivates me to stay well because I know they need me which is a good enough reason to get out of bed every morning although I wish they wouldn’t wake me quite so early! I have a dachshund, miniature pincsher, and Cavalier King Charles. Well, I just wanted to let you know that this post really hit home with me.

Thanks so much, Susan. I hesitated to put this post out there. Turns out there are a lot of us who can’t live without our fuzz buckets 🙂 You have a diverse crowd! Does one wake you up early or do all three feel it a moral duty to act as an alarm clock? (Little Man is a 5AM riser. Ugh.)

A very special posting for I always like reading about anyone’s pet/s. You have written such a lovely story of all the dogs but of course the middle dog is the interesting one. I’m so glad that you have a special bond with her. She sounds like a wonderful dog who has helped you through some rough times.

One question. If you move back to the states will it be a problem to bring the dogs with you? I truly believe that the dogs are an important,,, part of your family life and that they have helped you in many ways to cope with your illness.

All my pets have been a huge part of my life and I could not imagine ever not being surrounded by my furry friends. They have kept me on my feet when all I wanted to do was lie in bed and sleep or moan. So, I understand your story.

Regards,
Yvonne

Hi, Yvonne – hope you’re doing well! When we move back to the US, the dogs come with us. When we moved here, Big Boy and Middle Child flew over – and their airfare was twice what ours was! There is absolutely no way I would leave without them. (This may sound pathetic to some, but we had a chance to move to Australia and turned it down because of the 30 day quarantine for our dogs.)

Beautiful. I have been the proud mother of 3 GSD’s, one of whom became my PSD (Psychiatric Service Dog). He was my lifeline, knew how to get me out of catatonic depression, let me know when I was getting manic, and never left my side for an instant. He died on me from cancer when he was 5. I grieve for him to this day (6 years later). I now have a Lhasa Apso who provides me with cuddles and a lot of laughs. She is quite a character. She doesn’t have anywhere near the natural abilities that Ivan had, but she’s still a great companion, and she lifts my spirits, and she reminds me to take my medicine at 9:30 pm and to go to bed at 10:30 pm, so she qualifies as a PSD. I’m so glad you have your canine loves to help you through your days and nights!

Hi, SS – Not sure where you are, but I hope you’re still ‘home.’ I remember talking with you about Ivan. Such a special boy. My husband and I feel the way you do…we still grieve heavily for our first GSD, and one of the worst days of my life is when my family had to put our childhood GSD down. Ugh, still can’t think about that one without getting misty. Your current cutie is certainly a good, good girl if she can remind you about meds and bedtime. She’s more on the ball than I’ll ever be! 🙂 Drop me a line and let me know how you’re doing.

Love to! Can’t seem to find your email though, so if you wouldn’t mind dropping ME a line I’d sure appreciate it. I think there is a dybbuk in my computer….things just seem to disappear…:-(

Heh – great question! We considered not getting Young Man because we thought Middle Child would kill him. God, we were so wrong. They play and play and play. And play some more. Middle Child is so vocal and won’t put Young Man in his place, even when she’s tired. So YM has to go back into his crate. Just another lesson she’s taught me.

Catching up on your blog now after a bit of an absence! What a cutie he is. I so relate to what you mean about dogs and the nervy things. Our JRT can’t leave our sides and he’s such a nervy dog, howls at everything. Being Dutch-bred I hoped he would be a bit relaxed but no 🙂 We too got him to help me out of my depression just under 2 years ago (he’s around 18 months now). His breed are pretty active which is a nice way of saying hectic! but even so I often wonder how much I projected onto him in that terrible phase whilst he was a puppy – he saved my life. He was my constant companion whilst I was recovering and my husband was at work, keeping me from sliding into final oblivion. I had to look after him or it wouldn’t be fair on him so it saved me at the same time. What a gorgeous thing he is as well (yep I’m biased!). He’s off to obedience class no 2 next month and I firmly believe he picks up on so much more than I give him credit for. He knows when I am low and does things to pull me out of it.

It broke my heart to leave my last dog in New Zealand when my marriage ended and I returned to England – she’s the most beautiful Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. I hadn’t had my bipolar diagnosis back then but she too is very nervy and has separation issues (although not quite the same need for activity as this one!). I think of her every day and miss her terribly still and wish I had been able to keep her with me. I also wonder now reading your blog how much of her anxiety was actually mine – probably plenty. Pets as therapy is very undervalued. There’s a great charity in the UK that does a lot of work in this area http://www.petsastherapy.org you may want to have a look through. If I ever make it home and the JRT passes class, I’d enrol him to help out others!

Absolutely cannot underestimate how much our pets help us!! I really, really wanted Middle Child to be a therapy dog. Went to meetings, bought the materials, tried to make it work. Alas, she’s just not cut out for it. She is my therapy dog, and mine alone. 🙂 Great idea to enroll your JRT to do therapy!! Sometimes I wonder if Little Boy would be suited, but with that said, since my Dutch sucks I’m not sure what the therapy subjects would be saying to me if they wanted to talk about the dog! LOL

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