To heal myself from my anxiety I did it all. I saw a psychologist, a counsellor, and even a psychiatrist. I went to therapy, used essential oils, got acupuncture treatments, regularly did Zen meditation, even sat weekly with my meditation group for two hours, regularly practiced Iyengar yoga, learned EFT tapping, and had Reiki sessions. But nothing healed me more than getting a puppy.
But I had to be convinced to get a puppy in the first place.
During one anxiety attack, I sat crestfallen and uncertain what to do next. I sought refuge in my friend Lory’s house. She is a retired teacher, a singer, and a trained ear acupuncturist. Ear Acupuncture calms me down. After a treatment session, Lory brought up this idea, “Why don’t you get a dog?” She went on to tell me a story of her friend, a beautiful, single woman like me, who got a dog. It made her much happier. I have been a dog lover all my life. But since my dog Snort died in 2010, I could not get myself to have another dog. At least not while I was living in Manila - I told myself for I knew it was merely a stopover. I had plans of moving back to a place I loved, Australia.
At this point in my life, I would say no to many things, depriving myself of my own happiness. Surprisingly, in my series of anxiety attacks, it was dogs that calmed me down. I would play with my neighbours’ dogs. It was oddly more grounding than yoga or meditation or tapping. I brought up the idea to my therapist telling her all the reasons why I should not get a dog. She looked deep into my eyes and asked, “Why do you always delay your happiness?”
She looked deep into my eyes and asked, “Why do you always delay your happiness?”
I immediately worried what would happen to the dog when I moved to Australia and how I could bring him with me. But it was no longer enough to play with my neighbour’s dogs. I could no longer ignore my desire. I found myself searching for Shih Tzu puppies online. I asked my friends if they knew of any puppies. After several failed leads, one friend pointed me to an Instagram for Puppy Adoptions. There I saw two Shihtzu pups playing with each other. I fell in love with them and decided to get the bigger one of the two. Lying alone in an acupuncture clinic with needles on my head, my legs, and my hands, the puppy’s name came to me. I will call him Spark. He will bring back the spark I had lost in my eyes.
At nine weeks old, I picked up Spark. It was a rainy day, and he cuddled into my armpits finding his cozy spot on my jacket. We went straight to the vet for his check-up. He immediately peed on me. I’m not sure if it was his nerves, or him marking his territory as if to say “You are my human.”
Having a puppy only nine weeks old felt like having a newborn baby in my flat. Thankfully, he had already weaned off nursing from his mum. He did not cry at all the first night or any of the nights he spent with me. The first few weeks, while waiting to complete his vaccinations, he had to stay indoors with me. It meant constantly being together at home. Living alone meant keeping him company, staying home, and not leaving him at home alone. He instantly learned to do his business on pee pads. It meant teaching him to play with toys and saying no to chewing things he shouldn’t. It meant keeping the floor clean and spotless. It meant keeping anything he could swallow.
All of a sudden, it shifted my attention from my anxiety to taking care of this little puppy. Little mundane tasks like taking out the trash became a fun activity with Spark joining me to the garbage chute every night. He went with me to my favourite coffee shop and quickly became their favourite regular customer. He accompanied me to my therapist and even to my acupuncture sessions.
At first, I thought it would be a crazy idea to get a dog. But when I told my counsellor, psychologist, and psychiatrist, they all unanimously agreed it was a brilliant idea. I’m glad they were all right. Since Spark has come into my life, I have not had an attack and have been much happier.
Since Spark has come into my life, I have not had an attack and have been much happier.
I moved to Australia in October with plans for Spark to join me in April. But then COVID-19 happened. In the meantime, he is in the loving care of my best friend in Manila, with her two dogs as his playmates. I miss him every single day. But more so during the lockdown. Spark would have loved every minute of the lockdown here with me. But I regularly Facetime with my best friend and see Spark.
In the meantime, I’m seeking dog walking opportunities or maybe even pet sitting jobs just to fill my longing for a dog. I also watch dog videos and belong to Shih Tzu Facebook groups. I repeatedly look at photos and videos of Spark. I vividly imagine the day that Spark and I would be walking along Southbank by the Yarra River. He would love the cold weather and all the dog parks. One day, I assure myself it will happen. We will be reunited.