Mental Health Service Dog

I’ve Got the Puppy Blues

When you decide to get a puppy, people tell you it’s going to be hard. But they don’t tell you it’s going to be this hard.

After having been working on getting a service dog since the summer of 2016 — two and a half years ago — I finally have my puppy home with me. And although I love her, it’s… not at all what I was expecting. After the initial few days of glee, I’ve been crying pretty much all day every day. I’ve had more panic attacks than I’ve had in the entirety of last year, and I’m not going to lie: I’ve felt a bit suicidal. It’s not nothing to add a tiny poop factory with teeth to your family when any sort of change fucks you up royally. (No hard feelings, though, Nugget.)

Having an 8 week old puppy is like having a baby, but I imagine it’s worse because you have to go outside (in the freezing cold) every hour, as well as making sure your dog baby doesn’t destroy your house, eat something that will kill her, or get traumatized by something during the most crucial phase of socialization. Being a first-time puppy parent makes it even more anxiety-inducing, since you have no idea what you’re doing and just hope that whatever you’ve picked up from books and YouTube videos will be the right thing to do. Luckily I have a trainer who helps me with anything and everything dog-related, but I wish she’d just move in already so I never have to panic-cry again. 😂

Because my service dog journey has been so public, a lot of people ask me if I’m happy now. The honest answer is no (not yet), mostly just overwhelmed and tired and anxious. It gets worse before it gets better. At least, that’s what everyone tells me. I’ve been reading a lot about ‘the puppy blues’ on Reddit and it makes me feel better to know I’m not the only one who, in their sleep-deprived post-puppy depression, has considered returning their pup to the breeder.

All things considered, Nugget has been doing a fantastic job. I can’t leave her home alone yet, and since she’s supposed to be coming with me everywhere anyway, I already bring her to therapy, the store, the pharmacy, etc. She’s everything one should look for in a psychiatric/autism service dog prospect: she’s calm and affectionate, brave, recovers quickly from being spooked, and is excited to explore new places. Whenever we’re doing anything, she often checks in with me to see if I’m still there and if I’m doing okay (I think), and loves falling asleep on my lap.

Although I do hope this first year of puppyhood and puberty will go by quickly, I’m sure I’ll miss how tiny she is once she’s all grown up. Trying to enjoy every cute moment.

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