How a Rescue Dog Helped Me During The Pandemic
This pug knew I needed to stop doom-scrolling and get outside
After my fourth child moved out of the house, my husband and I officially became empty nesters. The freedom was great at first, but I started to feel as if something was missing. I had been a nurturer for so many years. Now, suddenly, no one needed me to drive them to school, pack their lunches, check for fevers when they were sick, bake their favorite cookies, tuck them in at night or kiss their foreheads when they woke each morning.
And then menopause hit, and the emptiness I felt became entangled in a host of unwanted emotions. Rapid hormonal changes from menopause caused erratic feelings that vacillated between anxiety, anger, and depression. My physician prescribed medication to take the edge off my anxiousness, but it could only do so much. I still woke some mornings unable to move, overwhelmed by a constant sense of dread.
Concerned about my behavior and the fact that I was home alone for long periods during the day, my husband searched local dog rescue sites until he found what he believed would fill the empty void. When he walked through the door one afternoon with a female pug he had just rescued from a local foster program, it was love at first sight. Savi snuggled right up to me as if we were old friends, and she’d finally come home. Her quick and unconditional love was a salve to my soul, and from that moment on, we were inseparable.
I had owned a variety of dogs over the years, but there was something about Savi that made her unique. She was incredibly attuned to my menopausal mood swings, and always sensed when I wasn’t feeling right. During those moody moments, she was my shadow, following me around the house to make sure that I wasn’t heading toward an emotional meltdown.
After adopting Savi, I started feeling better, both physically and mentally. So much so that I joined a gym to get back in shape and reconnected with old friends over coffee dates.
But then the pandemic struck, and the world shifted on its axis. My husband’s work hours were suddenly cut, and I lost my online freelance job. As a result, anxiety from the new financial burdens we faced triggered my depression. Being quarantined only added to the stress, as the lack of physical contact with friends or family took a heavy toll on my mental well-being.
After the first two weeks of being in lockdown, paranoia about the virus set in. Every time I coughed or felt a tightening in my chest, I was convinced that I’d been exposed to COVID-19 and feared the worst. Consumed as I was with the virus, I had little time to play with Savi. My days were spent in front of my computer, searching for COVID symptoms or watching YouTube videos to distract me from the panic simmering beneath the surface. Savi followed me from room to room and stared at me quietly with her big brown eyes, as if questioning my behavior. I knew she sensed something had changed and was waiting for clues about what to do to make things feel normal again.
One afternoon after watching the news and hearing about the rising death tolls from the coronavirus, I sat on the couch and cried, large tears rolling down my face. The world was in chaos, and I had never felt more helpless and alone as I did at that moment.
Savi immediately jumped on the couch, looked me in the eye, and pawed at my leg. When I turned to her, she licked the tear hovering on my chin and settled against my chest, her head near my heart. Holding her, I felt an immediate connection, and the weight of my sadness lifted, allowing me to breathe deeply for the first time in weeks. I realized that panicking about my finances wasn’t doing me any good and that spending my days in front of a computer screen did absolutely nothing to bring me comfort. Savi’s love and companionship would pull me through some of my darkest hours during the pandemic.
From that point on, Savi was my emotional support dog, staying close to my side and doing everything possible to ensure that I stayed healthy in mind and spirit. Through her, I learned to appreciate the stillness of the world during the pandemic — the beauty of the quiet streets we walked together and the unexpected kindness of quarantined neighbors who waved from their windows for a much-needed dose of human contact.
Spending less time online and more time playing in the yard with Savi has been the key to my emotional well-being. The pandemic nearly swallowed me in a well of negativity, but a little pug showed me there is still good in the world; that optimism and strength can always be found within a dog’s unconditional love.