LOLO AND BOO: I’m Boo’d Up
I promised to write one mental health blog a week for the month of September, but all I can think about is the new love of my life adequately named Boo. I didn’t know if my heart could open up to a new love or if I mentally I could handle one. But, Boo is different. He is less than 10 pounds, has four legs, and has had his fair share of trauma too.
Before I tell you how I came to adopt Boo it’s important to know I have a complicated past with dogs. My earliest memory of dogs were pretty gruesome. In the back roads of Mississippi dogs aren’t handled like they are in the suburbs. I recall bonding with so many dogs who got ran over by cars, or shot for chewing up furniture that was left out to dry. Once my mother brought my great mother an award winning Cocker Spaniel named Elvis. Every summer I came to visit Mississippi Elvis grew more and more miserable looking. First he came down with a scab like skin disease known as mange. It ruined his once beautiful, golden coat. Then he could hardly see through his eyes. Then one summer I didn’t see Elvis anymore. Someone said he died, and was buried by the railroad tracks. That was the the life cycle of country dogs in the back roads of Mississippi.
In my teens, my family and I moved to the suburbs of Virginia Beach. We had so many dogs then. A poodle mix that my mother gave away to the carpet man. A mixed breed from the dog pound that got so aggressive that we had to take him back. A black Cocker Spaniel puppy that mysteriously disappeared when I came home from school one day. So, so many dogs.
When I was about 16 we finally got a Chihuahua mixed from a Virginia Beach farm. When I first saw Cookie she was lying by a dog food bowl. She was too fat to run after the other skinnier dogs so she just laid by the bowl and waited to eat. My mother tried to encourage me to pick one of the more energetic dogs. But, I wanted Cookie, the discarded dog no one wanted. Cookie would stay with me when my parents got divorced, moved to different houses, and then somehow found themselves remarried again.
By my twenties, two different boyfriends had given me dogs. Harland, a Yorkie mix I got from a man I thought I would marry. Goliath is a Yorkie and Chihuahua mix from a man I knew I wouldn’t marry. They both still live at home with my parents, and due to our family strain I haven’t seen either in almost two years. A family strain so bad my parents fought to keep my dog away from me in court. Actual court. The whole situation hurt. The fact that my parents would rather have a dog in their house than me, and I knew I would never see my dogs again. I was told through Facebook that my Cookie, my first four legged love passed away last summer. I hope she’s found herself a dog bowl to lie beside on the rainbow road.
Needless to say I have a lot of heartache when it comes to dogs. Last year I mentioned to my psychiatrist that I wanted an emotional support animal, something to come home to, to make the depressed nights alone not hurt so bad. She wrote me a Emotional Support Animal recommendation letter in December of 2017. I was too anxious to actually look for a dog. I figured I’d mess my up life again, somehow end up on the street, and have to give the dog up anyway. I worried the dog wouldn’t bond with me. I worried I wasn’t enough.
For a lot of the spring I was fighting to keep my depression and mental illness at bay. My job was causing all kind of havoc on my mind. I fought bouts of insomnia, the sting of bullying at work, and the depression I felt for not being able to endure the hostility I often felt from my superiors. I decided it wouldn’t hurt to look for an emotional support animal, maybe just the looking would be exciting enough. The end of July I saw a little black dog curled up in a ball at the Norfolk SPCA. His name was Jaden.
I motioned for a volunteer. “Hey what’s wrong with him?”
“His owner just died. We think he has PTSD,” the volunteer said. I walked closer to his cage as she continued to talk. “The owner had him since he was six weeks old and Jaden was in the house with the deceased owner for days before they were found.”
I peered into the cage and whistled. “Hey come here sweet boy. You’re ok.” My heart ached for him. This little dog who didn’t understand why his world was up ended. I imagined him curled up to his owner wondering why he couldn’t respond. And, I decided I was enough. I would love that little dog back to life.
“I see he’s foster only,” I said.
“We’d like to make sure he bonds well with people first.”
“I’d like to apply today.”
The first few days Jaden was nervous and scared. He did not eat. He tensed up when I touched him, and seemed so sad. Each night I prayed over him, thanking God for this little dog, this little being that was helping me feel not so alone. Every morning I took him on walks and said out loud, “You are such a good boy.” So much of him reminded me of one of dog Goliath who I nicknamed Boo. I decided that Jaden was my new Boo. I started saying, “You’re my Boo aren’t? You’re my Boo?” And within a week a two his little ears started to perk up when I said Boo.
So it’s him and I now. Lolo and Boo. This past 60 days have been so hard. August I left a job I loved due to mental health strain. For days I had to fight to get out of bed, to put on makeup, to care for myself. I could feel myself falling back into a depressive episode. My friends pleaded with me to get up if only it were for Boo. A lot of August, Boo was the only reason I got out of bed. And, the more I felt him open up and love on me the stronger I felt. He’s already traveled with me to Lynchburg, and Richmond. And, now he has made his way into my heart.
Last night, before I went to sleep I broke down in tears. Crying for the life I once lived. I tried to cry quietly so I wouldn’t disturb Boo from his sleep. But, he heard me. He came from under the covers and licked the tears from my face. Then he put his head on my stomach. I put my hand on his back and focused on the goodness of that moment. How nice it felt that this once scared little dog trusted and loved me. The tears stopped and I was able to sleep.
I am truly a believer in emotional support animals. In the coming months, Boo and I will go through training so he can be certified as an emotional support animal. There are many pathways to recovery. Finding the ones that work for you are key. For me my recovery is a combination of faith, therapy, medication management, and now a four legged love I call Boo.
I found Boo at the Norfolk SPCA so be sure to support your local humane society. There are amazing animals there waiting to be loved and to love you.