Depression and Dogs: A Creature of Trust

CW: mentions of suicide

When I brought Stella home from the shelter, she was skittish and timid.  It must have been such an abrupt transition for her; she has an address and a phone number hanging from her collar, and just like that, she has a home. I hope that she grows even more confident in her new life here, but it strikes me that what I’m asking of her is difficult for me to do as well. Every day, I try to teach her and guide her. I set boundaries and offer affection. I want her to feel secure as a part of my pack, and I want her to trust me.

And yet, sometimes when I look at her, I feel as though I’ve made a terrible mistake. At first, it was hard to pinpoint why, but I think it’s because she makes the door that is suicide close a little more. I’m feeling a lot better these days, but it’s reassuring to have my plan as an option. I simply don’t trust that this improvement in my depression will last. That’s not to say that the other sources and objects of love in my life aren’t enough to keep me here. They are why I’m alive right now, after all. But welcoming another creature into my heart only ties me more securely to life. She deserves happiness and security as much as I do. How can I ask her to trust that I’ll be there for her when I don’t even trust that I’ll be here for her whole life? I like to keep my options open, and it’s terrifying to willingly let one go. So I try to focus on the wonderful parts of having a new friend.

StellaL

Her personality comes out more and more each day, and each night, she sleeps a little closer to me. She loves belly rubs more than anything else, and will fall asleep on her back, legs askew. She’s afraid of lots of things, but she’ll walk toward them if you go with her. She wags her tail in a wide arc that’s more than 180 degrees, and the sound of her paws on the floor makes me smile every time. Sometimes at night, her round, puppy tummy goes up and down in time with the crickets, and I wonder if she likes the rhythm or if she and the crickets share a wild, natural pacemaker. And then her breathing breaks, and she sighs deeply, content to lie next to her human.
I think we both need time to build trust in order to get to where we want to be. I’m willing to wait.

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