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Breaking Expectations: How a black dog saved my life

“Breaking Expectations” is staff writer Shelby Bodine’s firsthand experience with living with mental illness. In this special edition of the column, Bodine has included photos of her and her dog Cash.

Dean Koontz once said, “Petting, scratching, and cuddling a dog could be as soothing to the mind and heart as deep meditation and almost as good for the soul as prayer.”

I met Cash, my black lab, two years ago and it was the best “worst” decision I have made to date. It was a day full of mania, which as you recall means that I spend a lot of money and forget to think decisions through. So naturally, I adopted a dog.

Neither one of my parents were sold on the idea and really tried to talk me out of it.

However, I just knew instantly. I’m not sure the exact moment that Cash stole my heart, but I knew it happened within the first five minutes I spent with him.

I’m not sure what it is with animals and those of us with bipolar, but I can say that having bipolar for three years has required a numerous amount of varied and different treatment plans, but I have yet to come across one that works as well as Cash does.

You see, when you’re bipolar and you feel like you’re either drowning all the time or on a roller coaster all the time any ounce of stability is the greatest feeling imaginable.

Those stable times are blessings and you really learn to value them. Cash brings that stability without me having to take a pill or talk about my feelings. He provides me with a sense of responsibility and a sense of love no matter what happens.

Cash is always happy and always willing to curl up next to me.

When I need a good cry, I can count on his head on my lap within the minute I shed a tear, even if it is a silent one.

We all feel the love and need that animals provide for us and it’s something we’ve all cherished at one point or another.

It’s a feeling that cannot be described with words because it’s all witnessed in the actions of a selfless and loving soul, also known as man’s best friend.

We don’t have to talk about it, he just knows what to do and when to do it. Dogs are good for us all, but they are miracle workers for those of us who yearn for stability.