Pet ownership: how adopting a furry family member improves life

Daffy was a stray. The dog catcher picked her up from the Target parking lot and took her to dog jail. My ex husband and I had recently taken in his daughter, age 5, full time as her mother was having some issues. I said no dogs. I had just lost Haley, my best furry friend of 9 years to a seizure disorder. No more dogs can’t do it.

Well, men don’t listen. Father and daughter went to the humane society and sprung young adult Daffy from jail. Once I got home from work Daffy crawled in my lap and there she stayed “but I said no dogs” I kept repeating over and over. I was shown her paperwork and noticed she had been picked up on 3/11, Haley’s birthday. “Ok this dog” I said. 

Daffy and I bonded. She ran zoomies like crazy everytime I came home. The ex was jealous because she didn’t do it for him. She was my dog. 

Fast forward a year the marriage broke up. An unfortunate event happened in which I required police assistance to safely leave my house. Daffy was my dog but she technically was not my dog she was adopted for the little girl. The girl was taken to live with her grandparents and I started receiving voice mails saying Daffy would be harmed if I did not come home. I played the messages for my lawyer who played them for a judge and I was given my house back and had “legal custody” of Daffy. She was officially my dog.

Daffy moved with me from Maryland to Massachusetts and then on to Florida. She saw a few boyfriends come and go and stayed by my side through it all. 

I was diagnosed a type one diabetic when I was four years old. I’ve struggled with it my whole life. One night Daffy crawled in bed with me, which isn’t abnormal but kicking me until I woke up was. I quickly realized the problem; my bloodsugar was 35. My goal bloodsugar is 120. I was able to find myself something to eat and Daffy stayed right with me until I was safe to go back to sleep. Not only has she done this numerous times since then but she has also thought my big dog and my cat how to sense changes in me because they have both alerted me as well. I wouldn’t be here today without Daffy, she is my hero. 

Daffy did an important job besides taking care of me. I worked in nursing homes as a social service worker for 18 years. At my last home, Daffy proudly went to work with me on Fridays. While there we would make our rounds and find anyone that needed a cuddle. Daffy would crawl in bed and snuggle residents who were ill, or sometimes she would just stand still and be pet. Suddenly everyone developed memory of her name, knew what day of the week Friday was and I went from the evil lady who says it’s not safe to discharge to the lovable dog lady. Soon enough residents were asking their families to bring pets in for visits or pictures of their favorite furry friends to share with me. They told me hunting stories and road trip stories and sitting on the porch with your dog at your feet stories. 

As fun as that was my favorite part of Friday was watching our residents with dementia interact with her. Some residents in the very late stages of the disease who needed physical help for everything would track her in the hallway with their eyes. I would pull up a chair next to them with Daffy in my lap and they would allow me to take their hands and put them on her. I would notice a slight smile creep across their face. 

One particular resident had a form of dementia where she would wheel herself around and make random noises. None of the words were sensical, until she saw Daffy. She wheeled right up to her and said “hi baby I love you, you need a treat” I offered the woman a treat to give her but when I attempted interaction she went on her merry way down the walkway making noises. 

My favorite was a woman who stopped by the office on her way back from lunch. Daffy has just gone outside and did her business and was settled on her blanket for a nap. The woman kept calling her until I explained she’d had a busy morning she was an old dog she needed a nap. “How old is she?” The woman inquired. I responded that she was, at the time, 12. “12?” She repeated, “that’s not old. I’m 85 and I don’t need a nap!” That gave me a chuckle but alas Daffy was not to be disturbed. 

Daffy and I celebrated her thirteenth gotcha day in March making her at least 14 years old. She retired from her Friday job a year ago as she couldn’t handle it anymore and I could tell it no longer brought her joy. She slowed down quite a bit. I got her a pink fishy life jacket and she enjoys floating in the pool to soak her old bones. 

Daffy’s vision may be poor, she may be slow to move, she does occasionally have accidents and the signs of doggy dementia come and go. I don’t know how much time I have left with my best friend but her heart is strong, she still loves to cuddle, the tail still wags and kisses are plentiful. As long as her sparkle is still there, we give extra effort for the rest. 

I may have said ‘no more dogs’ once upon a time but my Haley dog knew better. Who better to recommend your best friend than your guardian angel?

Living in an anxious mind

Courtesy of Pinterest


Mental health is a topic that has come to light more than ever in the last few years. While the resources potentially needed may not yet be in place, acknowledgement that mental illness exists is a big leap.

One of the most common mental illnesses is anxiety and is something that plagues me daily.

Anxiety is defined by the Mayo Clinic as intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. This definition may sound like stress which is a normal reaction to many situations. The difference is anxiety interferes with everyday life.

Anxiety is something that has plagued me my entire life. I’ve always had poor self esteem and often interacting with other people was a terrifying situation due to fear of rejection. Most often I’d rather keep solitary than be with friends because I’m not good enough and if I try to make friends I’ll be rejected and that’s embarrassing.

I do know that isn’t true and I do have a few friends but that’s what it’s like to be in my head: you’re not good enough and they won’t like you.

Fast forward into career mode. I can’t write my own resume. I sat down with a professional resume writer who asked me what I was skilled in. I stared at him blankly. I’m not “skilled” in anything I thought. He had to pick apart questions from what are my skills? Which was overwhelming to what am I good at? To which I answered nothing. Finally we moved on to what do I know how to do. Hooray! A question I could answer. Listing my “skills” to me felt like bragging and what if someone says I’m not good at something? Then I’m a liar. Again, not at all the case, I do have talents but my brain tells me I don’t.

Over my 18 years in social work I’ve had several bosses. I have switched jobs a few times as have bosses I have worked for. In my experience there have been two types of bosses: ones that thank you and praise the work you do making you want to do more and those that no matter how hard you work it’s not enough making you work to try to please them. There were times that I was highly complimented and I could do no wrong and there were times where I could do no right. I underwent public humiliation, had my peers come to me informing me my superior complained to them about my job performance, I’ve had write ups for not doing things I’m not legally able to do and I’ve had witnesses to these acts tell me I should sue. I’m not singling out any employer as it’s happened on more than one occasion. I’m also not saying I had bad bosses as each boss was an excellent leader, their style just was not effective for me. I would skip meal breaks to work, let my insulin pump run empty because now wasn’t a convenient time to change it, stayed overnight at work to accomplish huge tasks I’d been given with minimal deadlines. I worked myself until I was physically unable to work anymore and on more than one occasion wound up in the hospital because everyone else was more important than my own health. Even then I answered messages from my hospital bed because the show must go on. My brain tells me everyone else is more important than me, they matter more than I do. Truth is, I matter too. I know that I matter yet my brain tells me I don’t.

Dating with anxiety is an adventure. Many I have chased away when they have confessed feelings yet I thought they were joking. Some actually became angry at me. My track record of relationships has been those who have struggled in life. A list of men with substance abuse problems, inability to hold a job, co-dependent on me for survival and unfortunately a couple of times abusive. Money went missing, other girls appeared, there was trouble with law enforcement all because my anxious brain says latch on to who shows me interest even though that interest is in what I can offer rather than who I am. This concept I am still working on. Stable people are friend zoned because I feel they will reject me otherwise while if I dare to proceed elsewhere I quickly sabotage it. I’m told confidence is sexy however I live in awkward.

At one time joining a convent was a serious consideration so I could avoid the whole topic all together.

Now comes the biggest cause of my anxiety. I was diagnosed a type 1 diabetic right before I turned 4. Over 30 years of self neglect from anyone with a debilitating chronic illness and bad things will happen. My lab levels are a mess, my kidneys are working at just 38% capacity making it difficult to flush my system, my arteries are narrowed so I cannot effectively pump blood through my system. These two things mean I’m carrying an extraordinary amount of fluid. My legs swell and sometimes leak. My left lower leg is quite painful always from a bad bout of cellulitis while neuropathy has taken over my right thigh. I have severe obstructive sleep apnea but good luck finding a mask for my C-Pap that doesnt cause a panic attack. I’m told I have asthmatic bronchitis along with the fluid overload so I become winded very easy. I was diagnosed with degenerative joint disease in my spine hips and knees. Something in my lower back is out of place and suspicion of some significant nerve compression means I hurt. I hurt a lot and it’s constant. I can’t walk any form of distance and I require frequent position changes through the day. I go from standing a very short while to needing to sit to relieve pressure on my joints to having to lay down and stretch because my joints lock up and my muscles seize. That’s what it’s like to live in my physical body, now my brain has to compute all that. I must fight for improvement while accepting reality this may be it and that’s terrifying.

Each of these aspects have been enough to greatly contribute to my anxiety but fact of the matter is it was there to begin with. I have irrational fears of odd things. I don’t leave my dogs outside in the fenced yard for long because bad things could happen if I’m not watching and I prepare for the apocalypse every time I leave my house. I don’t leave if it looks like rain and most often I just make excuses to not leave anyway.

I have horrible insomnia for the strangest reasons. Example: my cat catching a mouse and being afraid he would bring one to me in my sleep. Sleep offers the unknown and I don’t like the unknown.

Now, a lot of what I’m describing is a fair amount of depression for which I’m also medicated. the combination tends to go hand in hand but the anxiety is what keeps me hindered. I just always anticipate the worst and have to talk myself into better scenarios.

I’m on medication, I’ve used meditation, I put trust in the power of prayer. I have lavender essential oil rollers, several mineral stones handpicked by someone who knows what they mean, my pillow is sprayed with a calming scent. It’s not for lack of effort. Just, in my brain I have to talk myself out of worst case scenario and try to take a chance to live. It’s all exhausting.

I hope I’ve provided some clarity on your friend/ family/ coworker who suffers from anxiety. Although you’d like us to “chill out” and don’t get why we won’t now just know it’s not that we won’t, it’s that we can’t.