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How Pets Have Impacted My Mental Health: Holli

I have two rescue labrador retrievers whom I absolutely adore. They both add so much to my life that I thought I would break it down into two articles.

These dogs were my first rescues and now I will ALWAYS rescue.

I fully believe rescue animals are grateful that someone saved them from whatever terrible situation they were in. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t get an animal from a breeder (which my family and I also did and those dogs were spectacular as well) but I do notice a difference which could, of course, just be the particular dogs I have. Point being, however your pet came into your life is a blessing.

For example, one of my dogs, Holli, was a day away from being euthanized in a South Carolina shelter due to “overcrowding.” She not only had heart worm which kept her alone in a crate for a month but she also had at least one litter of puppies before she got to me. This angel was only two years old when she came into my life and it was so sad to see how scared she was of everything. She needed permission to walk down the stairs, eat, etc.

Now, she does whatever she wants whenever she wants which is just how I like her to be!

Comfortable in her own home and knowing she is safe and loved.

img_0177I have had dogs before but this girl has helped me enormously in different ways. Holli has been my “therapy dog.” She has woken me up from PTSD related nightmares, always clings to me when I am not feeling well, and is so happy to lay in bed with me all day if that is what I need.

Holli has also learned that my stomach is off-limits. Of course, given she is a dog, she forgets sometimes and tries to get attention by resting her paw or head on my abdomen but as soon as I say something to her, she moves. She gets how comfortable it is for me to have her laying right on my chest to help ease my anxiety and pain.

When Holli came into my life, I was just recovering from another surgery.

I had a tube in my stomach and clearly was not myself – whatever that means! 😉 This surgery triggered my post traumatic stress disorder more than any others for some reason. I believe it was cumulative but who knows. Anyway, this was the beginning of me not being able to really let my guard down and feel safe even in my own home. I would be in the house with just my parents and maybe my brother if he was visiting and still be so on edge.

img_1706Once Holli and I bonded more and I saw what an amazingly intuitive animal she was, she started sleeping in bed with me. My parents and I were worried because of the tubes and drains I had but alas, I was better off having her with me. As she started waking me up from wretched nightmares (no clue how she knew), I would try to fall asleep saying to myself:

“Everything is okay because Holli is here.”

Meaning, I couldn’t be in vulnerable place (such as the hospital) if my dog wasn’t allowed there with me. This helped to mitigate some of my worry about random people coming into my room wanting to take blood or ask me questions or wake me up when I was just finally beginning to fall asleep. Having her with me gave me a sense of comfort I never knew existed. Even to this day, when I am in a bad place emotionally and having a difficult time unwinding or sleeping, I would make sure at the very least my hand was touching Holli and repeat those words in my head.

Stay tuned for Part 2 where I talk about my other ONE OF A KIND dog and the benefits both she and Holli have played in improving my mental health.

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

    Love this post. Holli sounds amazing. My dog was similar, as he would always be by my side when I was feeling really ill. It’s the best feeling.

    Always dancing,
    Elizabeth (team member)

  • magsmom65
    2 years ago

    I know what you mean. I had a poodle named Maggie that just passed a few months ago. She was in my life for over 12 years, and had the maternal, motherly instinct to comfort me. If I was feeling lousy, she would lay her head on me and stay by my side all day long, and always make me feel better, just by being there. She didn’t care that I was sick, feeling ugly, cranky, moody, in pain or felt like hell. She just loved me. I miss her terribly, but I have another maltipoo named Zoey who is now my only love. She is more playful than my other dog and doesn’t let me feel sorry for myself. She actually makes me get up and take her for walks, when I am feeling well enough to, but she loves to take naps with me, so she is also always by my side. Dogs don’t need to have it explained that 5 minutes ago, “you looked fine” and now suddenly I feel like crap. And it comes and goes, constantly. She doesn’t need to understand I just want to “be”, try to relax, let the pain subside, or be upset that I missed yet another of the fading invitations to be social. She’s just happy I am there for her and vice versa. She is faithful, loyal, loving and I don’t know what I would do without her. Dogs give such selfless love, she just makes me feel whole and loved…. She accepts me for who and what I am and that’s the best kind of love there is.

  • SusanHU
    2 years ago

    Thank you for sharing @magsmom65! We’re big fans of animal helpers here as well and so glad to hear that you have some furry friends who support you. =)

    If you’d like to share a story or some photos of your helpers, feel free to reach out to us at [email protected] and we’ll help!

    Thinking of you,
    Susan ( Team Member)

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