An Easy Way to Help Dogs

Picture this: in a scene of utter chaos and a moment that seems to be suspended in time, you watch your beloved dog get hit by a car. You rush her to the emergency vet, who informs you she has lost a lot of blood and will need a blood transfusion.

A transfusion? You think. Dogs get transfusions? It had never occurred to you before this moment. But where does that blood come from?

. . . . . .

A month ago, I wrote an article on a blood transfusion program for dogs here on the east coast (the Maryland, Virginia, Washington D.C. area really). After interviewing the director of the program and doing research, I decided to take the leap and see if Belle would be a good candidate. I am all about helping animals, and this is a pretty easy and direct way to do that, especially when I know first hand the benefits of being a dog mom.

Going into our consultation appointment, I have to admit I was concerned about how she would do being snuggled by someone who is not me. The techs took a few minutes to coax her to befriend them using treats, which she loved. Eventually, after maybe 20 minutes, she let them pick her up and put her on the table to begin the snuggle session.

She did just fine.

While she didn’t donate this first time, they did take a sample so they could determine her blood type. The results of the sample will also be sent to me so I know her health status, which is pretty cool. It could provide some good information for her veterinarian should it ever be needed. (I, of course, pray she never needs a transfusion, though.)

Turns out, she’s a good candidate.

. . . . . .

Unfortunately, I was too busy feeding her treats to take photos. Her comfort and security were more important to me.

I was pleased she was so comfortable allowing the veterinarian technician snuggle her. In fact, she almost looked like she was going to fall asleep. I guess my moments of snuggling her when I have depressive episodes got her used to it.

What was neat to see, though, was the trust that has developed between us. I truly do not think she would have been so cool with it all if she did not trust me and know I would never let any harm come to her. It was really the first time I saw that trust and had the chance to truly acknowledge it. It warmed my heart.

When we were done, I, of course, called my mother and Nana to tell them all about how Belle did. Just like a proud mom. Because I am.

. . . . . .

If you’re an animal lover like me, I encourage you to look into these types of programs. You can find out more about the program Belle participates in here.

Think of all the puppers you and your dog could save and how many happy families that will make.

Depression and the Power of Faith and Animals

“You can’t do anything right,” the voice whispers. “Of course no one would want to be with you. You’re never happy with what you have.” 

“Stop,” I tell it.

“You’re lazy,” it continues. “You don’t ever want to do anything. You never want to be happy.”

“Stop.” 

“She hates you,” it tells me as my mother walks in the door after work, a sigh on her lips. “You never make her happy.” 

“Stop,” I cry. “Please.”

“You made the biggest mistake of your life.”

“I know,” I sniffle. “I know. I’m sorry.”

“There’s no coming back.” The voice gets angrier, harsher, more insistent. “You’ll never do anything right.”

“STOP!”

. . . . . .

This is my internal battle nearly every day. This is what depression looks like for me.

I stave it off each time by turning on Audible and listening to Harry Potter. Or I turn on Taylor Swift’s new song Look What You Made Me Do, P!nk’s So What or Funhouse, or Linkin Park on repeat. Or I read the book I just got, Escape from Cubicle Nation. Anything to serve as a distraction.

What I try to do every time though, regardless of what I choose to refocus my energy on eventually, is pray.

Father, help me.

That prayer grants me enough peace to move forward with refocusing my energy, and it helps shut up the depression. It reminds me that my God is bigger than my depression.

. . . . . .

I now see all the times I couldn’t sleep, or all I wanted to do was sleep, or couldn’t get up, or didn’t feel like showering, or didn’t feel like doing anything while my husband was working were symptoms of a deeper problem.

I was never happy because I felt lost, inadequate, useless. I sought the affirmation of worth through my husband. But people can’t give us that affirmation because it’s difficult to truly know what someone else is battling. And I never knew how to express what I was dealing with. I didn’t have the words; I could only cry.

. . . . . .

Belle has changed how I handle my depression. I think my husband’s intent in adopting her was to provide us a family animal, thereby providing me a companion. You see, I craved attention and affection, but my poor husband worked all the time, and I suspect he felt tired by this need.

Belle was the answer, and she has been ever since.

We struggled initially. Boy, did we struggle. I had never housetrained a dog; I had never had a dog that was just mine. For a few weeks, I kept threatening to return her if I didn’t get help. It’s not my proudest moment, and I still cry remembering I acted that way, both to her and my husband. I’m grateful that Belle will never remember those few weeks.

Those few weeks, though, showed me the value and importance in training her. That became how we bonded. She came to trust me, and I came to trust her.

It doesn’t matter how depression is affecting me any given day, because when I pick her up from daycamp, she is happy to see me. Her enthusiastic tail wag that makes her whole body wiggle makes me smile.

“Belle bear!” I greet her, using the nickname my husband gave her as a puppy (because she looked like a bear cub). I open my arms wide for her to come to me, and come she does, ready to give me kisses.

“Mama!” those kisses seem to say. And suddenly it doesn’t matter that I was mad my entire drive home or that I cried in the car because she’s there.

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Belle (she now resembles more of a wolf)
. . . . . .

Belle has certainly been instrumental in helping me work through my depression. Simply by being there and needing care, she provides a constant positive reminder.

But my faith has also been instrumental.

In those moments when I was so frustrated with her as a puppy, I prayed. In the moments I hug her now, whether through tears or just in joy at her company, I pray.

The same is true with my beloved cats, especially because they came first. Since Belle isn’t allowed to sleep with me, the cats’ gentle purring and snuggles help me relax at night, which is usually when the anxious thoughts set in.

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Raptor, the younger cat, enjoying a tool box.
. . . . . .

Some days are better than others. I suspect that’s how it will always be, or at least how it will be for some time. Each day, though, I thank God for the blessing of my animals, that he provided me the passion I have for animals.

I know that with Belle, the cats, and God, I will be okay. And sometimes that’s the most hopeful reminder there is.

The Scarring of Thoughts

Laughter. Excited talking. The façade of a train station. The noise of a train. Tears of excitement sprang to my eyes, and I was bouncing on the balls of my feet. I took in my surroundings with pure joy and in total awe, like a small child who is visiting DisneyWorld for the first time.

“Why are you like this?” my husband joked quietly with me, shaking his head, as we boarded the scarlet train, him, my mother, and myself cramming into a small compartment.

“You just don’t understand,” I told him, my voice shaking with emotion at the overwhelming experience.

As the train travelled the five minute journey, I eagerly awaited our stop. As we got off the train, I squealed with little-girl delight and drug my husband across the platform and down the stairs.

Buildings gleamed in the sunlight. Turrets reached sky-high. Shop windows reflected what could lay inside. 

I was staring at a world I had imagined for years and had been looking forward to visiting for months.

 I had finally stepped into my books.

 . . . . . .

Visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was a highlight of that summer for me.

My husband and I had just graduated college, and we were about to celebrate our 2-year wedding anniversary. As a combined graduation-anniversary-(my) birthday present, my mom took us to DisneyWorld. In reality, my husband let me have that one because he knew how much I love Disney. And he agreed we could go to the Harry Potter amusement park at Universal Studios.

The poor guy was embarrassed to be with me I think as we hopped from one side of Universal to the other so I could fully experience the world I had spent years reading about and imagining.

Of course, I had to make a stop at Ollivander’s, and I insisted on buying the wand that interacted with the shop facades of the park.

“You realize everyone else who has that kind of wand is…twelve, right?” he quipped.

“Your point?” I responded as I showed off my wand work on a nearby window. (Yes, surrounded by girls much younger than me.)

I think I literally spun in circles to take it all in.

While I was persuaded to agree, rather angrily I might add, to see the rest of Universal Studios, I was completely enamored with The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I could have spent all day there.

. . . . . .

September 1st. It’s my birthday. But it’s also an important day for us Harry Potter fans—it’s back to Hogwarts!

This year marks “19 years later” and the final words in the series: “All was well.”

That trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was by far my favorite trip, second only to the vacation my husband and I took this past December. Granted, I do remember some things of that trip I’m not proud of. Namely, the fact I may have thrown just a bit of a fit when my husband suggested—nay, begged—for us to visit the rest of Universal Studios because, as he put it, we didn’t spend all that money just to see one part of the park. Like a petulant child, I crossed my arms and grumpily followed him. I eventually “knocked it off” and apologized, realizing he was right and I was being stupid.

My point is, Harry Potter has played a big role in my life. Really, it’s the story I always come back to. I’ve written about the themes in college papers; I (attempt to) discuss ideas about the story as they crop up in my head; I listen to a Harry Potter podcast; I have a Pottermore account; and I follow (and participate in) the newly-created WWBookClub on Twitter.

As I’ve been battling depression, it’s the comfort zone I retreat to. It’s familiar enough I know the story line, yet I can always find some new nugget to pick out and think “wow, that’s great.” I always seem to catch something new.

I’ve been listening to the audiobooks, because listening to them helps me to relax, and I just finished Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. For me, the battle in the Department of Mysteries holds so many mysteries in itself—allusions, images, and even things I hadn’t noticed by just reading. But one piece in particular caught my eye (er, ear).

[WARNING: if you have not read the books, a spoiler lies ahead.]

During the battle, the group gets separated, and somehow Ron ends up attempting escape alongside Ginny and Luna Lovegood. He gets a bit crazy in a room we assume is made of planets, and, upon seeing an aquarium full of brains, he’s entranced and insists on viewing them up close. He uses “Accio” to call one to him, wanting to know more about them. When he finally gets his hands on it, though, it begins to attack him.

Once the battle is over and the group is recovering in the hospital wing, we find Ron still has scars on his arms from where the tentacles of the brain attacked him. But it’s not the attack itself that strikes me, nor is it the scars. It’s what Madam Pomfrey has to say about them: “Sometimes thoughts can leave deeper scarring than anything else.”

Since hearing that line, I have been thinking a lot about it, and I think she’s on to something.

We are usually our own worst enemy. Our minds cause anxiety and depression. And those take form in thoughts. Anxiety tells us we won’t ever say or do the right thing; it keeps our mind spinning and spiraling until we turn to any method to shut it down. Depression tells us we are not worth it, no one likes us, or just makes us live in so much mental pain we can’t function; it sucks the energy right out of us. As I discussed in my positivity challenge, our thoughts can help us or hinder us in seeking positivity—negativity can change our brain chemistry, but so can positivity. Our thoughts can affect our reality (“Your mind affects your mouth, and your mouth affects your mind”). Then, our thoughts, especially expressed out loud, can affect others.

Thoughts really do leave deep scars, and I wish that I had Madam Pomfrey’s potion as a quick fix.

But I don’t.

. . . . . .

Our thoughts determine our actions and reactions. They can leave deep and painful scars, but they can also be empowering. When we choose to stop allowing anxiety to take away from our today, our thoughts will no longer control us; instead, we control them.

If I continue to dwell on what I believe should be instead of what is, on what I want instead of what God wants for me, I will have scars. But there is a kind of potion that can heal: giving it to God. While it may not act as fast as many solutions in the world of Harry Potter, it is the best solution there is because you relinquish control, knowing He will cover you.

And with that knowledge, eventually all will be well.

. . . . . .

Are you a Harry Potter nerd? What House are you? (I’m Hufflepuff.) What is your most memorable take away from the series?

What’s your comfort zone for dealing with scarring thoughts?