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?