Throughout most of my life, I’ve suffered from severe depression, agoraphobia, panic attacks, social anxiety, and Type 1 diabetes. Five years ago, I thought about getting a dog. One of the reasons was to get out for fresh air and exercise.
When I was a little girl, I remembered my father bringing me a picture from a newspaper of a Pug sucking a soother; I fell in love with this little dog and carried that picture with me for years.
I went to a pet store and discovered that they cost more than $2,000. I was extremely disappointed. I then searched further online and found a reputable pug breeder, who had a two-year-old female who was shy of everyone. I asked if we could set up a meeting.
When we met, I saw this little black pug, as happy as could be. She had the gentlest of eyes. She was a little overweight, but beautiful nonetheless. She waddled in and did not look left or right, but crawled into my lap and stayed there. For one hour we sat together and just stared into each other’s eyes; every so often she would tap my arm for a pet and a scratch. The breeder was so surprised, and decided that we were meant to be together.
Although Dakota was affectionate, to say that she was shy was an understatement. She hid behind me every time someone would try to pet her or if another dog tried to greet her. I would gently bring her in front of me and ask the person to squat down and let Dakota sniff their hand. Today, she goes right up to almost anyone. She is no longer afraid of dogs or traffic. She is pretty outgoing.
After a little while, I learned that Dakota has an amazing talent. She sleeps through the night, but occasionally wakes me up. At first, I thought she wanted to do her business, so I would get up and take her out. While I waited, my sugar levels would drop and I would get weak and have to stagger inside to eat something.
A couple of times when we were out walking she would suddenly stop, turn, sit, and stare very intently at me. Approximately 10 to 20 minutes later, my sugar levels would drop and I would either eat what I had on hand or rush back home.
One day, while we were visiting a friend, Dakota did the same thing, and sure enough, my sugar levels dropped. My friend suggested she might be trying to warn me. So I started checking, and each and every time she acted this way, my sugar levels would fall shortly after. Somehow, my Pug had learned on her own how to save me.
I called the breeder to tell her this exciting news, and she told me that her son also suffered from Type 1 diabetes. Dakota had slept with him for her first two years, and he confirmed that she often woke him up in the middle of the night — but he had just assumed she wanted out. They never made the connection of what a special little dog she truly was.
I no longer have panic attacks or anxiety attacks when I am with Dakota. She has not only saved me from low blood sugar levels, but has opened up a whole new world to me. I now go regularly to the dog park and have met some wonderful people and their dogs.
It has been five years now, and Dakota is seven. Last year, she was diagnosed with two collapsed discs in her lower back. Because she has taken care of me, it is now my turn. We are unable to take the long walks that we used to. I thought this might be the end of going to the dog park, but I bought a dog stroller and she loves to ride around in it. She does not have to stay home.
Dakota is the best thing to happen to me. She has brought laughter back into my life, and I am able to go outside not having to worry about anxiety or panic attacks. We are inseparable. We watch TV together, take the transit together, and visit our city.
The Royal Alberta Museum recently held the “Best Buddies Contest,” in which you send in a picture of your dog and write a story about why your dog is your best buddy. Dakota was one of thirty dogs to win. Her picture is now hanging in their “Wolf to Woof” display. In 2007, a photo of her in her pink winter coat and boots ran in the local newspaper and ended up as part of MSNBC’s Animal Tracks slideshow. My best friend is not only famous and a diva, but she has is an Internet star! I feel truly blessed and honored to have her in my life.
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