By: Sierra Cabezas

She gives me a sense of purpose even when I feel I have nothing to give or do.    

Ever since I became disabled and most of days became home bound, I discovered a new appreciation for pets. What I didn’t know at the time was just how vital my pets were to my health and well-being while I transitioned to a new lifestyle. I didn’t know the impact that a tiny dog could make, but boy did this little girl teach me.

Her name is Luna Beans and she’s a Chihuahua. When you first look at this going on six-year old, small reversed brindle coated girl, you may think the usual. Here’s an ankle biting, yapping at anything that moves, constantly vibrating nervous dog, but that’s just not the case with her. Even though she’s a small dog, I laid out a big job for her future and that was to be my emotional support companion. While there are many ways that she helps me out she’s an all-star when it comes to big issues.

Isolation is one of the biggest problems I run into with chronic health issues.

Until my husband and I can run errands on the weekend together, I spend most of my days at home interacting with no one or very few people over the phone or online. I don’t have much energy to be a social butterfly. For all those times where I’m feeling terrible, which is common, I’ve got Luna to fill the void. She is always there for me.

Purpose is another important role that Luna helps fill. When I’m stuck in bed or the couch bored to death, Luna’s ready to learn something new. I’ve never had a dog with such an interest to learn new tricks, she’s up to forty now! It makes me feel pride and joy when I teach her something new while I’ve been dealing with a particularly rough week. She gives me a sense of purpose even when I feel I have nothing to give or do.

Luna is my gauge for my stress levels. She’s very aware of the state of my mental health and reminds me to take a breath with a gentle paw resting on my chest and a deep stare of concern into my eyes. It’s not uncommon for her to sense the changes in my mental health and reacts accordingly. I found that a routine of morning cuddles before getting out of bed starts my day off more upbeat.

In the middle of the day I take a few breaks laying on my back on the floor to do meditative breathing. Luna will quickly run up to hop on my chest because she knows that she’ll get a good massage while I’m breathing. She helps me check out from the harsh reality that I often face and focus on her instead. The more relaxed I can make her, the more relaxed I feel myself.

My medical journey takes me down some odd paths. My pets in life have always been pets. They’ve never had any roles put on them before and Luna was my first dog to be tasked as an animal support companion. I’m proud to say that she not only changed my minds about Chihuahua’s, but also changed my mind on how much of an impact a pet can have on my mental health.

Do your pets help your mental state? How do they help you relax and destress? Share your stories and comment below what kind of animal supports you and how they’ve helped you.