Working On Us Prompt: Pets and Emotional Support Animals for Mental Health

This week’s Working On Us prompt is all about pets and emotional support animals. There are several questions to answer as a prompt or you can write a narrative. I am going to go with the latter, but also incorporate the questions into my post.

I have never had a formal emotional support animal. I do hope to get a guide dog for the blind somedday that will hopefully be in some ways capable of supporting me emotionally too. I know of several people with guide dogs who feel their dogs serve them a purpose related to their mental health too.

For now, I have a cat. His name is Barry and he’s a six-year-old European shorthair (the “standard” breed for Dutch cats). We adopted him from the animal shelter my mother-in-law and sister-in-law work for in 2014. At the time, we had another cat too named Harry, but Harry was extremely hyperactive. We hoped that a companion for him would help him let out his hyperness in a healthy way. Barry however couldn’t handle it, so eventually we rehomed Harry to my sister-in-law.

I never quite bonded with Harry. I was always worried he’d shove my Braille display or other expensive equipment off my desk if he got the chance. At the time, I still resided in the mental hospital so only got home on week-ends. I really didn’t like Harry to be honest.

With Barry, I initially didn’t bond well either. Barry was very shy and reserved to begin with. I remember clearly when Barry first came to me for a cuddle.

Now that I live with my husband, I am Barry’s main feeder, so he’s taken more to me. As a result, he definitely supports me emotionally. He sometimes lies next to me in bed when I’m sleeping off a depressive state. His care also provides me with some much-needed structure. Barry isn’t an emotional support animal officially, but having him around definitely helps me sometimes.

In my opinion, any animal that can be kept as a pet can be an emotional support animal. So can farm animals. In 2005, I went cow-cuddling with the blindness rehabilitation center. I didn’t like it at the time, because I didn’t see the purpose. Now I would love to go cow-cuddling again.

Similarly, horses are definitely useful as therapy or support animals. As regular readers of my blog know, I go horseback riding at an adaptive riding school once a week. Though it isn’t officially therapeutic, it definitely helps my mood and overall mental health.

I also have experience caring for horses that I didn’t ride. In 2012, I went to a horse stable as part of my day activities. I had a horse there named Flame, a Shetlander, whom I often brushed, went for walks with or just cuddled. Flame could’ve been my emotional support animal.