I have always had a dog as long as I can remember. All throughout my reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) diagnosis, the migraines, my wheelchair, everything. I didn’t realize how comforting having a dog can be until my sophomore year of university.
My now boyfriend of almost three years, Kalib, would occasionally stay over at my apartment where I lived alone but, for the most part, my nights were filled with homework and silence.
I missed having a dog to greet me and it would get awfully lonely sometimes, but Kalib helped ease my discomfort when he was around. I enjoyed being alone occasionally and it was helpful for my introverted personality to rest and relax before trying to take on another day of school and work.
Kalib and I had just started dating at the time, so when I would have bad flares, I could just be at peace with myself in my apartment without anyone being around. That feeling changed quickly after one occurrence.
I had driven Kalib back to his apartment after a date and was arriving back at apartment alone. It wasn’t even that late, and it wasn’t even that dark, but something inside of me didn’t feel right. I drove back, parked my car, kept my keys out to get back into the building, and it all happened so quickly.
Long story short, a man faking an injury had attempted to attack me outside of my apartment complex. Although my spoons were numbered that night, the
adrenaline kicked in and I was able to, fortunately, flee from my attacker and made it back to my apartment. I had never felt so alone than when I shut that door behind me, hyperventilating, my legs in massive pain, and my heart and head pounding. I looked around as to see if anyone was around but I was completely alone.
Shortly after this incident, I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I had lived my life with so many diagnoses that most of them I would just shrug off and continue on with my life. This one was different though. It wasn’t a physical disability, but a mental one and I felt, at the time, that there was so much stigma I would be subjected to. I had the support of my friends and family, but I felt that I needed more.
I no longer felt safe enough going back to my own home and, when I was there, I didn’t want to leave, terrified of the outside world. My counselor gave me a little paper that, at the time, I didn’t know would change my life. She handed me a paper for an emotional support animal (E.S.A.).
After looking around at the shelters in my area, I wasn’t sure that I had found the best dog to fit my personality and my needs. Keep in mind, after the incident, I wanted a dog that would care for me but I knew would also protect me no matter what.
I wanted that security and to know that this dog would support me through everything. And just like I expected it to support me, I wanted to be able to support it as well.
I made sure that I could fully take care of this animal before I made any decisions, even with the E.S.A letter. With all that in mind, Kalib and I continued to go from shelter to shelter in the area to meet with different dogs.
One July afternoon, we went back to our local Humane Society and I immediately zeroed in on a dog that was sitting in the corner of his cage, calmly looking up at us. His name was Dexter and he was a Pitbull/Collie/Retriever mix with the sweetest look in his eyes.
We took him into a room to get to know him and spend time with him and I immediately fell in love. He was strong and protective, while also loveable and cuddly. I wanted him, but I also didn’t want to make a rash decision. Owning a dog, even as a support animal, is a lot of work and I didn’t want to make a mistake.
Kalib made a good suggestion that I ended up following: “If you go home and sleep on it and decide you want him tomorrow, we’ll come back and get him. If he’s not here anymore or you decide he’s not for you, then it’s not meant to be.” I went home after saying goodbye to Dexter, alone.
I couldn’t sleep that night, just thinking about how much I loved this dog and how I wish the Humane Society was open at 3am so I could go and pick him up that second. So, after a sleepless night, it was decided: we were making a trip back to get Dexter.
I spent all day at work just bouncing up and down with excitement until we finally rolled up and officially adopted him. I didn’t know I could love this dog even more until he sat in my lap on the way home, even though he didn’t really fit.
Dexter has continued to protect and love both me and Kalib over the past 2 years. He has also been trained to work with me regarding my many chronic illnesses, and can alert others when I have passed out and also try to wake me up safely. He gives me all of the support and love I need when I’m sick, he gets me out of bed each day, but also keeps me comfortable when I’m having a flare.
He has helped tremendously with my PTSD, and has even fought off the same
attacker (yes, it happened again, with the same person) in order to keep me safe. Dexter has been a blessing to my mental and physical health over the years, but has also become a major part of our little family. He is my friend, he is my support, he is my world, and he is also my child. We care for each other.
If you’re thinking about adopting or getting a service animal of any kind for a specific condition of yours, I highly recommend looking into it. From my own experience, I can honestly say that it has changed my life for the better.
Disclaimer: I do not recommend getting an animal (even if you are given a letter for an E.S.A.) if you are unable to take care of said animal. I made sure that I would be able to fully take care of Dexter (financially, emotionally, etc.) before deciding to get him. Although I was a college student at the time with a busy schedule, I also made sure I was there several times a day to come back and take care of him between classes and such. It’s important that your E.S.A. is there for you, but also that you are there for him/her.
Alexandra has had multiple chronic illnesses for many years. At the age of 16, she was officially diagnosed with reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), chronic migraines, and fibromyalgia. At the age of 20, she was diagnosed with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) and Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS).
After graduating with her B.S. in Neuroscience and being involved in
multiple research endeavors related to chronic pain and illness, she started her own blog, Chronically Caffeinated, where she documents her own life with chronic illness.
Read more articles at: https://chroniccafe.wordpress.com/
Find Alexandra at:
Chronically Caffeinated Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/chr0nicallycaffeinated/
Chronically Caffeinated YouTube:
Personal Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/alexandracorrine
Fitness & Health Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/alexandracorrine_fit/
Dexter’s Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dexterd00/