I thought I needed a dog.

Turns out, all I needed was a friend.

Please don’t get me wrong; I have friends. I like my friends. I enjoy being around them. But something was missing.

Since moving away from home, my anxiety has been… in a word… difficult. My panic attacks and general fear of basically everything was heightened during the time when I was learning to navigate life as an adult thousands of miles away from home. I’ve been to the doctor, been put on a lot of different medications, and visit a therapist regularly.

But sometimes, even meds can’t fix everything.

That’s when I was told to get a dog. But not just any kind of dog. I needed an emotional support dog. This kind of animal is one that doesn’t have to be trained to do certain tasks (like service dogs) but are more for general comfort.

When I had dogs (yes, I’ve had more than one) I started doing things I’d never done. I mean, I never drove through a fast food drive thru until I was 23 years old. I wanted ice cream. Normally, no problem. But when you have a dog in the car, you can’t leave them alone. I was forced to go through the drive thru so my dog would be safe. After that, my confidence started to heighten every day. I started talking to strangers at the dog park. I spent more time out and about and around people. And honestly, I felt much better. My depression was more manageable and I was happier.

Unfortunately, because of my job, having a dog just wasn’t in the cards. During certain times of the year, I was never home. I’d have to have my friends come check on my dog, and I started to worry constantly about the well-being of my friend (which is the total opposite of what the dog should have been doing). It was with a heavy heart that I gave my dog up for adoption.

Obviously, I was very depressed about that, too. As much as I wanted a dog, I knew I couldn’t do it.

Then I found out that dogs aren’t the only animals that can be emotional support animals. Actually, any domesticated animal can be an emotional support animal. After learning that I’m no longer allergic to cats (I don’t know when that happened), I decided to adopt my new friend, Yogi.

I’ve had Yogi for two weeks now. I’ve found that in those two weeks, I feel less stressed when I’m home and I sleep better (even though he likes to suck on my face in the middle of the night). I focus less on what I’m stressed about because I find his cuteness so enchanting that I can’t stop looking at him or playing with him.

And even better? I adopted him. I’m a major proponent of adoption because how can you say no to an animal that really needs your help?

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