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Tag Archives: Work

Dogs, Design, and Depression

I’m a terrible blogger.

It’s been, what, over a year? Like, well over a year? I have a few good excuses. Here’s one:
wally1 wally2 wally3 wally4

After years of begging my husband to ask the landlord if we could get a small dog, Chris finally budged in the first week of January – and the answer was yes! I immediately went online to find somebody to adopt, looking for a Chihuahua/Chihuahua mix (we have a TINY end unit condo, so we really needed a small dog). On PetFinder and another website, this profile for a Chi mix named Wallis Simpson kept popping up. Her pictures weren’t that great, she looked kind of ratty, but something made me keep going back to her profile. Maybe it was the name – I LOVE the story of Wallis Simpson and King Edward VII, and she’s such an obscure historical figure these days so I guess the name just caught my eye and stuck in my head. I called the Dog Tired Ranch in Mena, Arkansas where she had been rescued, and I immediately started the adoption process. The ranch mom(?) Janet – who is an amazing woman, by the way – kept telling me that Wallis was much cuter in person, but I didn’t really take that to mind since I’m a huge dog lover and any dog that is mine is automatically the cutest dog in the world.

Well, a couple weeks later, Chris and I are standing in a freezing cold Mariott parking lot at 4AM waiting for the dog transport trailer to show up with it’s delivery of adoptees. We’re probably the third or fourth in line, and I feel like I’m about to explode with anticipation. What if the dog doesn’t like me? (Impossible – ALL dogs like me. I mean it. They go out of their way to get a scratch from me. It’s really weird.) What if she’s mean? What if she’s not even on the truck?!

Finally, it’s our turn and I ask the transport manager for Wallis from Dog Tired Ranch. He heads back into the trailer while I rock from heel to ball, holding the fleece blanket I brought to my chest to attempt to warm it up. I turn to Chris to say something, probably to complain that the guy is taking too long and that they forgot to stop in Arkansas or something, when I hear everyone on line behind us go “awww!” I look back at the trailer and see the transport manager carrying what looks like a stuffed animal down the steps, big black eyes shining and fold ears forward and alert.

“Is that our dog?” I ask Chris out of the corner of my mouth without taking my eyes off the impossibly adorable creature heading our way.

“I don’t know. But don’t say anything,” he whispers back.

The transport manager passes the tiny tan dog to me, sticking her right into the blanket I’m holding out to him, and the living teddy bear immediately starts licking my face like crazy. Chris gets the manilla envelope of adoption papers (confirming that this is indeed Wallis), and we get back into our Highlander. It’s almost an hour’s drive home, but tiny little Wally won’t stop wagging her curly tail and licking my face. She even licks Chris’ hand with the same fervor when he tries to pet her while driving. She has a sandpapery tongue like a cat, so by the time we get home, my face is chapped from more than the cold weather. We thought Wally would be all over people, but as it turns out, she just took to us immediately. Maybe she just knew she was heading for a permanent home?

Anyway, these days, Wally follows me everywhere. I can’t be out of her sight. Yes, she’s super attached, I know, but it’s so damn endearing. And, as it turns out, she’s sensitive to migraines and alerts me hours before I get one. In her early days in NJ, she was very defensive of me, barked at every dog, was near impossible to walk on the leash, and screamed (yes, SCREAMED) when we went outside. She quickly became known as the psycho dog of the complex, and everyone knew her name. But, with some advice from a dog trainer neighbor and a lot of devotion, I was able to train Wally out of her leash aggression and her defensiveness, and whatever the screaming was about (anxiety?). Now, we walk around the whole complex side-by-side, and she HAS to meet every dog she sees – for social reasons rather than protective ones. She can even play at the dog park, though she gets a little overwhelmed and acts shy, tending to stay close to me rather than playing with the other dogs. But she does love my mom’s dog and my brother’s dog, which makes holidays much easier and more fun.

Pro tips: For leash aggression or pulling, try the Freedom Harness and the double leash. For anxiety, try a ThunderShirt. Also, give your dog treats for every little bit of good behavior, and they’ll progress much faster. I would give Wally a piece of a treat as soon as she set eyes on a dog, before she even had a chance to growl, and I would say “It’s okay” at the same time; now if I don’t have treats on me and she gets anxious, I just have to say “it’s okay” and she settles down a bit and keeps walking. This is how you cut down on defensiveness.

Also, I’ve switched careers completely. Last you heard, I was a desk jockey, working data and managing small projects. Now, I’m taking advantage of my hereditary artistic talent – what little I possess – as well as nepotism, and I’m working as an Interior Fine Artist for my brother’s LLC. Interior Fine Artist is what we call ourselves – it’s a fancy term for faux finish painters/muralists/custom design artists. It’s the first job I not only like but LOVE. Every project is different, I learn something new almost every day at work from the most talented artist I know (that’s not nepotism speaking, my brother actually is disgustingly talented), and I’m actually confident that I’m good at what I do.

Another one is a little more personal, but I’m sick of people being shamed for having mental, anxiety, etc. disorders. So, on that note, I’m coming out of the closet – last July I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and Severe Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia. And here my family just thought I was a major bitch. (To be fair, I did too.) Oddly enough, this was probably the best thing that ever happened to me – being diagnosed, I mean. I was unhappy for a long time, wasn’t querying my novel or working on a new one, and I went from 114 lbs to 170 lbs in a little over a year. It wasn’t until I got help – really good help; I have the best psychiatrist in the world – that I realized I’d never actually been happy in my life. Now, with the right treatment, it’s like I took off sunglasses I didn’t know I’d been wearing my entire life and finally can appreciate things in their right light. On the upside, it’s something I have in common with a few of my favorite people: Edgar Allan Poe, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Vincent van Gogh… And Billy West.

My PSA for the day: Get help! Being ashamed to go to a therapist is so outdated – and not in a cool, vintage way. If you have a hunch that something might be wrong with you physically, you go to an MD, right? There should be no difference getting checked out by a counselor/therapist, even if you go just once. Consider it a mental checkup!