Why having an ESA has helped my overall health
Getting my dog Oban has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. He’s a two year old beagle/basset hound mix who was rescued from Georgia as a puppy and is basically my best friend (is that sad to say?). I’ve always loved dogs and grew up having family pets, but I never had a dog who I was solely responsible for before him.
He’s registered as an ESA (emotional support animal), which means I have a doctors note stating I need him for medical purposes (mainly anxiety). It allows him to travel on airplanes with me and also allows him to live at my apartment building with me regardless of any restrictions they might have. He’s been flying with me since he was a tiny pup so he has the travel routine totally down and knows to lay by my feet (usually sleeping with his blanket) during every flight. There has been a lot of stories on the news about people abusing having an ESA animal (remember the ESA peacock someone tried to fly with last year) , but for me, having Oban has helped with my mental and even physical wellbeing. I remember right before I got him I had told my (now previous) landlord that I would be getting a small ESA dog. She rather rudely started questioning what medical conditions I have and even had the audacity to ask me if I would be healthy enough to even take care of a dog and take it out for walks! Now looking back I wish I had a better response then “Uh yes”, but sometimes it’s hard to say what you want to when you are so caught off guard - luckily I’m now at a new apartment building and it’s super dog friendly.
(In full on travel mode)
Getting Oban (or Obes as I so frequently call him) has been so good for me in many ways, but one of the main things I have noticed is how much he has helped with my anxiety. Having a chronic illness, or multiple chronic illnesses like I have, can feel really isolating. I’m home a lot of my day and I’m also alone a lot of the time as well. When I’m alone I can get really “in my head” about my symptoms or not feeling well. At the time right before I got Oban I was also getting really anxious about what I could and couldn’t eat without getting a bad Mast Cell reaction. I always felt like my throat was closing up from the allergic reactions I constantly dealt with, and that made my anxiety skyrocket. During this time, it was wonderful for me to have something else to focus and put my attention on. He helped me take my mind off things & in doing so, helped me keep perspective.
An added bonus of having a dog is that he keeps me on a schedule of needing to get up in the morning at an reasonable hour to take him out and go for a walk around the neighborhood. I definitely don’t always feel like waking up early or even walking some days, but I always feel better once I’m out in the fresh air and I feel like I did something productive even on the lowest of energy days. Luckily Oban is a BIG couch potato and isn’t a high energy dog at all which is the perfect fit for me.
Like the saying you always hear, “laughter is medicine”, I truly believe animals (and especially dogs for that matter) are medicine. There’s something so special about a dog’s love and that strong bond that is created. Oban is one of my biggest comforts and always lifts my spirits no matter how low I feel. When I’m having a down day he is happily by my side in bed or on the sofa. He’s glad if I have to cancel pans or have to come home early. If I need to sit on the floor or lay with my legs up due to a POTS episode, he’s right there kissing my face. There’s no judgement with dogs, just pure love and who doesn’t need more of that in their lives?