Having an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) is no joke
Meet Sven. Sven is my personal Emotional Support Dog. No, he is not a service dog, nor is he a therapy dog. His job is to provide emotional support to me and me only whenever I need it. Some might say “oh, he’s just a dog” or “how could he possibly help you if he’s not a trained service dog?” Well, that’s what I am about to share with you in this article. I’ll split up my mental illnesses and explain how he helps me with each one.
Sven helps my depression by always being happy to see me. He greets me at the door with lots of puppy kisses which make me smile and laugh. Sven cuddles with me in bed in those days where it is difficult to get up. He has silly antics that make me giggle. Taking Sven for walks also helps get me out of the house and outdoors. He forces me to be social by attracting people who are dog lovers and want to say hello or pet him. Sven gives me hope.
The best way that Sven helps me with my anxiety is by being a source of grounding and reminding me of the present. When I get caught up in the past or future, I am supposed to pet Sven and feel his fur coat under my fingers. I am supposed to feel him breathe and search for his heartbeat underneath my palms. Sven is in the present. Also, when I am anxious, Sven is learning to apply pressure (his body weight) to my body. I am teaching him to lay his head on my lap or to lean against my legs or body. Pressure helps quell anxious feelings just like how some people use weighted blankets. In fact, my hometown therapist allows me to bring Sven to our sessions to help me as I process information and deal with difficult topics.
Eating Disorder & Self-Harm
First of all, since anxiety and depression are a large part of having an eating disorder and self-harming, Sven helps with those things as described above. The other ways in which he helps is 1) as a distraction and 2) as something I have to nurture and care for.
As a distraction, I use Sven by playing with him, cuddling, or taking him out for a walk or potty break. This helps keep me from heading to the bathroom, fridge, or picking up something sharp. Because Sven is like my child, I nurture and love on him like I would a human child. He has to be fed, given water, exercised, and given baths. I have to maintain his health, and by doing so, I can learn that it is okay to take care of myself as well.
On top of all of those things, Sven makes me feel truly loved as there is no love in the world quite like that of a dog. I am so happy to have him as a part of my life. In September I will celebrate out one year anniversary “Gotcha Day” with pride and love.