We have all heard of service dogs who help disabled individuals with such tasks as being the eyes for a blind person, helping a person in a wheelchair reach things, helping someone with walking, and so on. There are also emotional support dogs who help people with mental illness. These dogs must be prescribed by a mental health professional like a psychiatrist, psychologist, or a therapist. These dogs develop a special connection with people who struggle with mental illness. They give them something to focus on, they give compassion, they help ease anxiety, they give companionship, and much more.

All dogs give endless love; they give you a reason to get out of bed and they seem to know when you are sad, hurting, or sick. Dogs are very good at sensing what their human owners are feeling and what they need. Any dog of any age can be an emotional support dog. They are not technically emotional support dogs unless prescribed, but if your dog gives you the emotional support you need, then she or he is to you your emotional support dog.

Someone I know was recently prescribed an emotional support dog. This made me think of the dogs I’ve had in my life. They weren’t prescribed to me, but they gave me the emotional support I needed to deal with my depression, anxiety, and Borderline Disorder. Each dog supported me in different stages of my illnesses. They gave me the love, comfort, support, and strength to face mental illness.

My first dog came to me during one of the darkest times in my life. I was living with my abusive ex-boyfriend. He had a dog that he protected fiercely but didn’t take good care of. The dog was a pest and often flea-ridden. I couldn’t stand the dog. When my boyfriend brought home another dog named Daisy, who had been sprayed by a skunk, I was mad. She was a dachshund whom the neighbors found wandering the neighborhood. She was determined to be my dog. She nudged my hand with her nose until I pet her, she followed me around the house, and slept beside me.

My need for Daisy’s comfort grew the more abusive my boyfriend became, and the sicker I got. When I lay in bed with no willpower, she nudged me with her nose until I got up. She gave me endless love and snuggled in my arms when I cried. She was determined to show my boyfriend she hated him by pooping under his desk, ripping things of his apart, and even nipping at him. When I was hospitalized, she wouldn’t eat and that gave me a reason to get better so I could come home to her.

After Daisy passed on it took me a while before I was ready for another fur baby. When I was ready, my parents told me if I picked out a dog, they would help me with the costs for adoption. I found a picture of a rat terrier named Brandi online. My mom took me to see her, and I just knew she had to be mine. Brandi was a younger dog than Daisy and required more exercise and play time. She kept me active. She gave me a reason to go for walks, to play fetch, and to keep moving each day. She gave me extra attention when I dipped down into depression episodes. I was past the worst of my illness when I got Brandi, but I was stuck in an endless loop of depression. Brandi gave me a reason to keep fighting.

Brandi didn’t like men, but when I started dating my husband Lou, she warmed right up to him. When we got married, I had a hard time being alone when Lou was at work, and I worked later or had days off. I had difficulties adjusting to the new life I was living. Brandi gave me companionship. She made the lonely days more bearable and gave me a reason to get out of the house by giving her walks. She gave me something to focus on.

After Brandi passed my heart broke, but Lou knew how much I needed the strength, love, and support from a dog. He saw a dog on the news and recorded the section about the dog. When I came home from work, he showed me a clip about a Jack Russell named Elli. I just had this feeling she had to be mine. I had my sister-n-law take me to the animal shelter a half hour before it opened so I could make sure I was the first to adopt her. Jack Russells are known to be a high energy dog, but Elli was so mild and loving. She was much smaller than my other dogs and loved to cuddle.

I was working towards recovery when Elli came into my life, but I was struggling with obsessive worries about finances and other things. I began having anxiety attacks that made me sick. Elli’s endless love and snuggles gave me comfort. She knew when I was having a rough time and she snuggled right up to me. The feel of her soft fur beneath my hand and her warm body in my lap helped ease some of my anxiety. She gave me strength to find help for my anxiety attacks. As I went through tests to rule out other medical conditions and started on medication to help with my anxiety, I had my Elli to snuggle up with. She gave me strength, comfort, and support.

Six months after Elli died, we found Esther at an animal shelter. Once again, I saw her and knew she was the one I wanted. Not too long after I got her, I had a tendon repaired in my ankle. Each day I lay on the couch and she lay beside me. When my husband tried to get her to go outside or eat, she refused to leave me. My husband had to carry her out or feed her on the couch beside me. Since she’s been in our lives, she’s stuck at my side through breast cancer, back surgery, and carpal tunnel surgery. For each surgery she has brought me comfort with the emotional roller coasters the surgeries put me through. She snuggled up to me when I cried over the loss of my breasts. She always knows when I’m hurt, sad, sick, or just need extra attention.

If your therapist prescribes an emotional support dog, then find the right dog for you. Even if you’re not prescribed one, then find a dog of your own. Dogs are great emotional support. If you’re not a dog person, investigate another pet.

My dogs were never prescribed to me, but they were and are my emotional support dogs. Each one played an important role in helping me reach recovery. I stand in the light of recovery with Esther at my side and the memories of my Daisy, Brandi, and Elli in my heart.

5 thoughts on “

  1. Hi Aimee, posted a very thoughtful response but due to recent problems with my computer, I couldn’t log in and the comments were lost. Sorry. Amy


    • Murisopsis,
      I believe God led me to my dogs and he knew which ones I needed at the specific times in my life. I love my departed dogs and the baby girl I have now. They have helped me so much. Thank you for reading.


    • Cheryl,
      Thank you. Yes my baby doggies were so helpful to me and my Esther still is. They all knew when I needed extra cuddles and lovings.


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