Personal Growth

Dogs >

Am I alone when I say that the best part of my day is when I get to go home from work? The reason I get so excited about being at home is because of my little furry love bug, Bernie Sanders.

No, not that Bernie Sanders….

This Bernie Sanders.

He’s a two year old Shih-tzu who has rocked many hairstyles. He has a personality that is unmatched, and brings a lot of energy to our household.

I can expect the same routine every time I get home. I am greeted by Rhen and Maddie with tail wags and barks, let sleepy eyed Bernie out of his kennel, take the dogs outside for a potty break, and to come back in to my Bernie wagging his whole butt and jumping up and down on me with so much love and excitement. It brings the biggest smile to my face…in fact, I even feel calm. It’s like my pup is my best medicine.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I have major depressive disorder and post traumatic stress disorder, and I take prescribed medications to help regulate my brain and body as I deal with these illnesses. Although I rely on this medication for my mental health and well being, the most fulfilling medicine and treatment is having Bernie, Rhen and Maddie. I love all of our fur babies, but I have had Bernie since he was a puppy. He has gotten me through some difficult times, so this post is mostly centered around him.

I love him. It’s a kind of love that I cannot explain, but when I think about this pup, I feel so much stinking love I can barely handle it. Is that normal? Science points to YES! In fact, having pets is good for a healthy lifestyle, asMelanie Curtin writes:

“The fact is, doggy love isn’t just a nice-to-have–it’s a powerful part of a healthy lifestyle. A 2017 Swedish study of 3.4M people found that for those who live alone, dog ownership can decrease risk of death by 33 percent. Study after study confirms that having a dog doesn’t just keep you alive longer; it also improves your mental health, lowers your rate of heart disease, and increases your overall level of joy.”

I’ve been giving this a lot of thought recently because people I love *cough, cough* my wife, have given me a hard time about loving Bernie more than I love people. In my overly dramatic mindset, I want to scream YES! Of COURSE I LOVE DOGS MORE THAN HUMANS…but that sounds a bit harsh. Note: I do appreciate and love human interaction & believe that the people I surround myself with on a daily basis are incredible individuals that I care deeply about. HOWEVER, there is just something unexplainable about my connection with Bernie and desire to want to spend time at home alone with all of our animals rather than going out to a crowded bar/event. I know not every one feels this way, so I have been trying to make sense of what it is about me that makes me feel this way. I think it’s because I’m a depressed introvert. I have depression, and having Bernie is a form of treatment for me. I also am an introvert; I am re-energized by being alone.

In briefly researching this topic, I found an article by Kayla Mueller on titled “6 Reasons Why Introverts and Pets are Perfect for Each Other”. As I read through it, I thought everything it mentioned applied to me and my relationship with Bernie (and our other fur kids). Here are the 6 reasons the author highlights:

1. No small talk–yep, I hate small talk. I much prefer deep, meaningful relationships, which usually means I skip right past the small talk.
2. No expectations–they want very little from us. The very little they do need from us is also helpful when going through a depressive episode. It helps hold me accountable to someone when I don’t feel like doing anything. I know that our pets are relying on us to take care of their basic needs.
3. No judgment–OK, this is one that I really love because they love me no matter what I look or smell like & some days are way worse than others.
4. A constant source of comfort–Bernie is covered in the world’s softest fur, and knowing he will be at home when I get there is something I can count on everyday.
5. A great conversation starter–This is so true. I connect with people who have pets they love more than anything, and it’s always fun to talk about the personalities of all of our pets because they vary greatly.
6. A great excuse to go home–but for real…like I mentioned, it’s often the best part of my day.

In most of these same ways, Bernie helps me with my mental illnesses. His playful nature and love for all things simple warms my heart, and I cannot imagine my life without him.

Here are some of my favorite Bernie moments/photos. Try to look at these without smiling 🙂


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