When I started believing that evil agents were hacking into my cell phone and breaking into my house to misplace my belongings, my little dog Muffy sensed something was not quite right with me. Early in the throes of a psychotic episode, I grew paranoid and Muffy tried to ease my stress by distracting me. As my condition worsened, not even her antics could calm me.
The Stress of Hospitalization
When I was hospitalized for a week after suffering a nervous breakdown, Muffy was in my thoughts. I couldn’t stop thinking about my wife and Muffy because I missed them both so much. Phone calls with my wife and her visits were my only consolation. When I asked her how Muffy was doing, my wife tearfully responded that the little dog often sat in my favorite chair. There she sighed, looked sad, wondering where I was and whether I would ever return
When I walked the hallways of the psych ward fearing for my safety from patients who I believed wanted to hurt me, Muffy’s lingering image soothed me and kept me going.
The Comfort of Returning Home
When my wife drove me home from the hospital, Muffy was waiting for me at the door. Excited to see me, she greeted me at the door and covered my face with wet kisses as I held her. Whimpering, she squirmed in my arms, reaching to lick my face as I pulled her away and set her back on the floor. She jumped up on my legs, clearly wanting me to pick her up again.
When I settled down in my home with my wife, Muffy touched by her effusive affection. Darting to the cupboard, I grabbed Muffy a dog biscuit, which she caught in her mouth and gratefully devoured. She sat in the kitchen and kept careful watch over me as my wife and I put away the groceries we had picked up on the way home from the hospital. She happily ate the few scraps from the table that I fed her during dinner.
When I watched TV later that evening, Muffy curled in my lap, I scratched her gently behind her soft, furry ears as she looked at me with her big, brown eyes. She sighed contentedly, safely cuddled with me, finally safe at home with her and my wife. “Good doggie,” I cooed. But she wasn’t such a “good doggie” later when I took her out for a walk to do her business. She growled and barked ferociously at any dog she happened to see, straining at the leash.
When I was falling asleep, Muffy lay peacefully at our feet as all three of us slept soundly in our bed, me for the first time in seven long nights. I heard her dog tags jingle softly a few times when any noise from outside that no human could hear alerted her to raise her head and turn toward the window. She was a natural-born watchdog.
The Stress of Exile
When I received only a few extremely brief phone calls from friends and relatives over the next few days, weeks and months, Muffy perked up her ears and made me feel valued and needed.
When I had to quit my job because I could no longer handle it, Muffy loyally stood by my side. She could tell I felt rejected when community leaders ignored my requests to volunteer for their community groups or events. She did whatever she could to cheer me up.
When I lost my friends, Muffy extending her paw in friendship to me.
When I lost my standing in my community because of the stigma of mental illness, Muffy came a’running every time I called her and sat on command.
When I endured obligatory social outings where people ignored me, Muffy greeted me with her paw when I returned home.
The Stress of Abandonment
When my psychiatrist abandoned me because I wasn’t recovering quickly enough, Muffy played fetch with me with more enthusiasm than ever. She especially loved to run after a stuffed panda bear and play tug-of war after she retrieved it.
When my therapist abandoned me because she was uncomfortable with my losses, Muffy rested her chin on my thigh and looked sympathetically at me.
When I suffered repeated job rejections because of my lingering mental-health symptoms, Muffy cheered me up with her comedy routines. My favorite was when she rolled over on her back and played dead, all four paws pointing up in the air.
The Ongoing Comfort
Through my entire ordeal and ongoing recovery, Muffy became a loyal supporter, confident, pet therapist and inspiration. More than ever, she remained this man’s best friend.