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How Pets Have Impacted my Mental Health: Phoebe

I wrote about my black lab mix, Holli, in part 1 of this article.

Now, I want to briefly explain Phoebe… my little yellow lab/greyhound mix.

Phoebe the dogPhoebe was abandoned and found in a box with her siblings under a bridge in North Carolina at three weeks old. They were all covered in fleas and clearly hadn’t been cared for at all. Their mother was also nowhere to be found. Because of this, Phoebe has a lot of anxiety and separation issues. But, she is also THE happiest pup (she is 5 years old now) I have ever met. As long as she feels connected to someone she loves, or at the very least, is near her canine sister, she is okay.

I named Phoebe after Lisa Kudrow from Friends and Alyssa Milano’s character from Charmed. Both played very happy go lucky, innocent characters and that is what I hoped Phoebe would represent in my life. And boy, I could not have found a more perfect dog for that! She is the epitome of innocence, of unconditional love, and happiness. She is amazed by the simplest things and it reminds me that there is goodness in the world, even when I am in such a rut and losing hope with each passing day. This little girl, who is so fascinated by a butterfly, not only always makes me smile but she shows me that there is a life outside of illness and pain.

So, the question is “How Has My Pet(s) Impacted My Mental Health?”

Phoebe the dog cuddling with her ownerI am not exaggerating when I say this but my dogs have saved my life! As most of you know, IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) patients tend to do a lot of trial and error with medications. Those of us who suffer from Crohn’s Disease or ulcerative colitis also develop symptoms of which there are sometimes no easy answers. Thus, making us go through the gamut of tests, procedures, ER visits, hospital stays, blood work, doctor’s appointments, etc. And even with all of that, it can sometimes take years to get the answer to what is going on with us…which then begins the whole “well what do we do about it?” process.

All of the things mentioned above can wreck absolute having on a person’s mental state; especially when, because inflammatory bowel disease is an invisible illness, we are dismissed when the answers aren’t staring us or our physicians in the face.

Another example that comes to mind about how my dogs have helped my mental health is…

Phoebe the dog cuddling with her ownerWhen I was on prednisone and feeling very depressed, insecure about how I looked, and just flat out felt like a basket case (even though this medication was very helpful in masking my symptoms), my dogs were always there with me. They didn’t care if I woke them up in the middle of the night. They didn’t care if I was in a bad mood. They didn’t care what I looked like or how much weight I gained. They had no idea if I showered or not. I was able to just BE… without judgment.

I was also put on another medication to help me sleep that made me very suicidal. Again, this is not an exaggeration in the least bit. I wrote suicide notes to my family and close friends because of this medication. It also took a number of months for anyone to realize that this was what was causing me to feel and act the way I was. There were more days than not where I would barricade myself in the basement of my parents house and just scream and cry. I felt this black hole was inside me eating away at my soul and I thought for sure, this would be the end of me. I don’t mean to sound morbid but I have never felt that way before in my life and it was beyond scary.

There was something inside me telling me that “this isn’t you, something else is causing you to feel like this so hang in there.”

While my dad played an enormous role in helping me through this difficult time by allowing me to scream and cry in his arms and get everything out, there were times when I did not want to burden anyone else. But, of course, I could not turn my emotions off.

Phoebe the dogI remember crying and crying and yelling how much I wanted to die and then my two furry girls would start trying to push their way into the locked door. I tried to ignore it a lot of the time but after a while, I would let them in. And having Holli lay right on top of me and Phoebe lick my face and sometimes spin in circles chasing her tail would remind me that there WAS GOODNESS IN THE WORLD. There were two living creatures right there beside me who cared about me and while they didn’t understand anything that was going on, they were there for me. No matter what.

I have so many stories about my pets (whom I don’t even look at as “pets” but more like intricate members of my family) that I will share in another article so this one doesn’t get too long.

Do you have any stories about how your animals have helped you through difficult times?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • thedancingcrohnie moderator
    10 months ago

    Animals are so therapeutic. I know my dog would always cuddle next to me when I was flaring and just feeling awful. Having a little companion next to you is always the best feeling. My dog would also follow me into the bathroom and sit next to me while I was keeled over in pain. It’s just nice not to be alone sometimes.

    Always dancing,
    Elizabeth (team member)

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