“I had just started grad school when the bipolar II depression that had plagued me for years worsened to the point where I could no longer cope. After enduring three psychiatric hospitalizations in just eight months, my parents brought me home. I was 23 years old and capable of sitting, sleeping, and crying, but not much else. The dog we’d had when I was growing up had passed away while I was in college and urged my parents to get another one. It was the first thing I’d showed any interest in since being brought home, so my parents decided we’d get a dog.
We didn’t see any dogs we liked at the first shelter, but at the second shelter my mother said to me, “What about the brown dog?” The “brown” dog (who was actually brindle) was the only dog in the entire shelter that wasn’t barking. She was sitting very patiently in her kennel, just waiting. When I came up to the door, she approached and let me stroke her muzzle through the wire. I thought, “If her fur is soft to the touch, this is the one.”
Her was fur sublimely soft, like satin and velvet rolled into one.
What we didn’t know when we brought Abbey home was that she would play an important part in my rehabilitation, giving me something to live for on the worst days and a reason, then, for getting better and growing more confident so I could be the best dog owner for her. We also didn’t know that in a surprisingly short time, thanks to medication and therapy, I would achieve balance and happiness beyond what I could ever have imagined possible. We definitely didn’t know that a few years after that, I would develop a different debilitating chronic health condition that would force me to withdraw from the world.
They say that you don’t get the dog you want, that you get the dog you need, and in ever stage of our journey together, I’ve had just the dog I needed in Abbey. That sweet, quiet dog with soft fur that was waiting so patiently in her shelter kennel has proved to be the perfect companion. I never feel lonely, not with her expressive face and attentive presence at my side. Her playful streak makes me laugh. If I need to spend long hours in bed, she’s always ready to snuggle! She is constantly reminding me, as dogs do, that the simplest pleasures–the family gathering for dinner, a car ride, a patch of sun to sleep in–are some of the greatest.
It’s not easy to be disabled at such a young age and it can seem unfair that I should be laid low by chronic migraines after triumphing over my mental illness. But loving Abbey as deeply as I do helps keep my heart supple and alive; there’s no room for bitterness. She’s getting older now and I know she will not be at my side forever, but she’ll always be there in my heart, that “brown” dog, the one that taught me how to save myself.”