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Here's Why People Complimenting My Dog Matters so Much to Me

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Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

August 2020 I wanted to die. There’s no cute way to say it nor are there any elaborate, beautiful, metaphorical bits of prose I can construct to illustrate the beginnings of the hardest part of my life to date. There were no silver linings, and barely any good days. I’d curse the sun out the moment I opened my eyes simply because I did.

I no longer felt that I had a rooted reason to live, and then weeks later that changed when a three pound ball of energetic and chaotic fur fell into my lap.

Raising a puppy when you barely have the energy to even get out of bed and you’re living through what you’d find out to be severe C-PTSD due to pet-related loss was a little hard, to put it lightly. I was resentful for the fact that blood pumped through my veins, and now I had to use those veins connected to these limbs and cells to give an innocent animal the best life I could give. I didn’t have the energy to feed myself or do anything that made me happy, but I’d find it to play with, walk, and train her to the best of my abilities with the limited resources and time that I had. 

That three pound puppy got bigger (only a little bit though), ate most of my underwear, a few pairs of shoes, three remotes, and a few other forgotten casualties of puppydom. Other puppies on Instagram and Tik Tok could talk and use buttons or did real tasks, meanwhile mine decided to do anything and everything she could to destroy my place.

I loved her, but I feared that I was failing her in the same way I knew I was failing myself. I was giving her everything that I had. My entire essence and existence was dedicated to her, and here I was dropping the ball due to my depression and suicidality. 

She got older and she matured, but at that point I was just so used to her antics and the destruction that I was just used to thinking she was a “bad” dog, but only because I was a “bad,” owner. 

Then, someone decided to pet sit for me. I was so paranoid thinking that I’d owe them half their apartment and then I got a text.

“She’s so well-behaved!” 

I was floored, and the good reports came in day after day. Then the compliments poured in from other people. They said she has an amazing temperament, listens when you give her commands, and is super affectionate and cuddly in all the best ways. Yes, she’s a smart dog, but also, I did that. I trained her. I didn’t fail her.

I don’t think people understand just how weighted these compliments are, because they are just complimenting a dog or some basic pet parenting. They’re complimenting me at my absolute most vulnerable – days where dishes didn’t get touched and friends were left on read. They’re complimenting the person who had no idea what she was going to do with her life, and yet she had to figure it out quickly, or else. They’re praising someone whose will to live was abysmal, and yet they somehow made it work. In all the wrong they did, they did something right.

That one small affirmation is a beacon of light that shows me even at my worst, I was still capable of doing something right, something beautiful even. 

So, yes. I did a good job. I have a well-trained dog and that’s not just because she’s too smart for her own good, but it’s because I’m worthy, talented, and capable even when I’m repulsed by my own existence. 

As of July 2022 I’m still not the happiest with the fact that I’m alive, but I have a damn good dog who makes life worth living. That’s what matters the most.

Lead image courtesy of contributor

Originally published: July 1, 2022
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