Saturday, April 11, 2015

Pet Pal - An Ode to My Cinn

#HAWMC Day 11:  Write a thank you letter to your furry, feathery, or fishy friend for always being there for you. How have they helped you cope with your health condition?

Yes! A prompt about animals!  If you know me, or read this blog at all, you know how much I LOVE animals, and specifically, my dog Cinnamon, or Cinn for short (also, obviously, elephants, but I think that's kind of a gimme). I've written about Cinn before, such as this "happy birthday" post, in which I tell a bit more of "our story". Since the possibility of singing Cinn's praises are virtually endless, for this post I'll focus on specifically how she's helped me with my condition.

First off, I honestly think I get along better with animals than humans much of the time. We just seem to have some sort of understanding of each other that I can't manage with most people. I'm one of those suckers who has to turn off the Sarah McLaughlin commercials because otherwise I find myself in tears, wanting to adopt every dog on the screen, physically hurting for the animals, even though I know they're intentionally choosing extra pathetic-looking images for marketing purposes. So right off the bat, Cinn has my almost empathetic understanding of animals going for her. 

Furthermore, we have history. I got Cinn when she was 8 weeks old, while I was still married to my ex-husband. We had another dog at the time, who I liked ok, but Cinn just stole my heart. When I left my marriage, she was the only demand I made. I literally would have walked away with nothing else as long as I had Cinn (luckily my ex is a decent person and didn't allow this). She's been with me through heartache after heartache, and every happy celebration and momentous occasion. When I was diagnosed, I wondered how to tell everyone. Would they look at me funny? Treat me differently? But not Cinn. I knew I could tell her anything, and she'd just sit next to me, letting me pet her, putting her forehead down and leaning into me for a "hug". When I started my meds and was sick as a... ahem... dog... she would be by my side as I lay on the couch, dizzy, nauseous, and disoriented. When I didn't have the energy, or equilibrium, to take her for the longer walks she was accustomed too, she never complained (nor did she have one accident in the house).

The days I cry through my depressive episodes, she senses that I am upset, and is even more loving than usual. She lets me pet her and hug her and hold her, even if it makes her uncomfortable (note: dogs don't like to physically be encircled in a hug, but sometimes I just need it). After days or weeks of depression, Cinn never says "mommy, geez, pull it together, I need to get outside more." When I'm too exhausted from cycling to go out on a Friday night, I don't feel like I'm boring, letting her down because suddenly I went from fun to "grandma" (no offense to actual grandmas out there).  She probably thinks "sweet, I'm staying home to sleep too! Now I have a cuddle buddy!"

Even when I'm having a horrible hypomanic episode in which I'm freaking out, frantic, and generally scaring the humans in my path, Cinn doesn't react. She may wander out of the room to not be underfoot, but her memory is short. If I go to pet her ten minutes later, she doesn't recoil like there's something wrong with me. She's happy to be petted and loved. 

In a life in which there's so much uncertainty for me, with an illness that is so unpredictable that I don't know how I'm going to feel from one day, or one hour, to the next, Cinn has been my rock. Friendships have come and gone. Relationships have come and gone. But not Cinn. She's 10 years old now. I know that dogs don't live forever, and I watch her slower step, sloping back, and graying muzzle with infinite sadness. Some day, she will no longer be able to sit or stand by my side, through no fault of her own but simply the laws of nature. I dread that day. I tear up just thinking about it. Until then, I will spend every chance I get letting her know how much I love and appreciate her, for how much she's loved and appreciated me. Thank you, Cinn, for the unconditional love. No matter how gray or slow or aged you get, you'll always be my precious baby girl.

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