On Tuesday, a magazine for diabetics showed up on our doorstep. This was no surprise, we’ve been subscribed to the thing since I was a toddler. I used to read it (obviously not when I was a toddler) and cringe at all the melodrama around type 1 diagnosis, wondering why people made such a fuss. As I got older, the cringe turned to frustration as I questioned why these people thought their worlds ended 30 years ago or however long it had been since they were diagnosed, and so I stopped reading it unless an athlete had been featured somewhere (keep in mind that this was younger, teenaged me who had no idea how dangerous this thing could be, and still doesn’t fully accept the severity of what is, to me, just “normal”… because I have other health stuff that concerns me more and warps my view of what serious should be)
Anyway, this Tuesday it wasn’t the contents of the magazine that made me roll my eyes a million times and bury it under a pile of papers somewhere (I read the subheadings on the front and decided I didn’t want to read about ‘My Kidney Check’ etc) but the cover. On the back, featured in an advert for a new blood glucose monitoring system and staring at an image of the product, was a fluffy little golden labrador puppy wearing an Alert Dog In Training vest from the charity I hoped to train my own alert dog through someday. I mean really? My mother took delight in highlighting that exactly what I wanted was on the cover.
After almost exploding at the cuteness and covering the image with the book I had been reading, I approached the subject with her again. She was as unimpressed as usual. But then she gave me what I think was supposed to be a deterrent but actually turned into an ultimatum.
“I’m telling you now if you get a puppy you have to be prepared to commit to never staying in this house again.”
It isn’t going to be a pet, it is going to be trained to do a job. It is going to save my life. It’s going to bark if it finds me on the floor (in fact hopefully it will notify me before I ever end up on the floor). It’s going to tell me when I’m on the edge of various medical emergencies and wake me up before I end up unable to move like usual.
It will help me with some of my health problems: It will give me the confidence to sleep through the night without setting any alarms, because I’ll know that if my blood sugars drop or spike to dangerous levels (as they so frequently do), or my blood becomes acidic (which usually leaves me in ICU), it will wake me up before I get anywhere near to a coma/ death/ needing to go to hospital. It could be trained to know when I’m going to pass out from heart stuff etc. It can bring me medication when I’m too unwell to get it myself. When I’m too unwell to walk, it could be trained to get me stuff. It is going to support me in ways people are no longer willing to – it will be there when PTSD drags me from the sleep my broken body cries out for, I will bury my face in its fur as I shake and cry and try to remind myself that flashbacks are not real. It will be with me in hospital, it will stop me running away when the trauma of being in hospital aggravates the monster of my PTSD and I have flashbacks every time a doctor walks into the room. It might even help me to avoid a few hospital admissions thanks to my various malfunctions, (the physical malfunctions particularly, all of which could potentially take or endanger my life – I could put up with just their unpleasantness, but not the thought that they might kill me and that I might have no idea they are doing so until it is far too late).
It will look at me like the sun shines out of my butt, which will make me feel loved and starve the ever hungry beast of my depression (that is majorly triggered by deteriorations in my physical health). It will save my life in so many ways and yes, I will love it but no, it isn’t a pet. Because, I repeat: It. Will. Save. My. Life – emotionally and physically. In all the ways MY current dog already does and has and more; but you won’t let me take him with me because he’s old and it isn’t fair (and you’re too stubborn to admit that you love him like a third child). It will be my carer, in a way. It will do what you cannot cope with doing, what it isn’t fair of me to even ask you to do but which you seem to think I selfishly and unfairly expect of you anyway when you shout that you (completely understandably and justifiably) can’t cope with that. It won’t buckle under the stress or the strain or the pressure. It won’t be scared to be around me, lose sleep at night with worry, or be crippled by the same fear that sometimes hits me out of nowhere. It will look out for me when there’s nobody else to. It will give me my independence back. It will give me the confidence to stop setting alarms or and sleep through the night, to stop feeling so hopeless and scared sometimes. It will be better than any psychologist in helping me deal with the emotions that my health issues kick up. It will be better than any therapist in calming me down when I freak out. It will make me feel safe again. It might even make me feel whole.
How could you say no to that? How can you stand between me and something that will change my life? For what? Why? I don’t understand.
You let my big sister come to stay with her two ADORABLE young children (who are irrelevant to this situation, but I love my nieces so much they shall be mentioned) and two dogs that you don’t even really like! (one of whom sheds her fur like mad all year round and pees and poops on the big fluffy rug in the back room, and who both seem to terrorise my timid old labrador who has never understood that barking and growling in his face when he’s minding his business running around the garden with his football means ‘can I play too?’ not ‘drop it and run away with your tail between your legs immediately’) I’m not even going to be living with you. We have already established that me staying here isn’t a good thing for many areas of my emotional wellbeing, but my dog is here, and that, along with the knowledge that you are here, keeps pulling me back because I will always be hardwired to adore you, and could never do anything other than try to please you and hope that maybe something will have changed and I won’t exasperate you this time with almost everything I do (which is my fault, not theirs. My family are incredible, loving, kind people with big hearts. Me being around changes them, and that isn’t fair on them at all. I’m selfish).
And that was when I almost picked the puppy (even though I wasn’t actually being given a choice to make).