Since at least 2011, May 4 has been annually commemorated by geeks everywhere as Star Wars Day because of a really awful pun. (“May the Fourth be with you.”) There are no dogs prominently featured in either trilogy, unless you want to think of either Chewbacca or the (shudder) Ewoks symbolically fulfilling that role. (I don’t.) You can certainly do a quick YouTube or Google Images search and find plenty of adorable pics of pups doing Wookiee or Ewok drag. (And at least one of a dog dressed up as R2D2 while riding a Rhoomba. I’ll let you find that one yourself.)
But while the day does lend itself to whimsy, it also seems like an opportunity to acknowledge Carrie Fisher’s therapy dog, Gary.
Gary is cute and adorable, and the press has taken many opportunities to comment on that fact, but he has a serious purpose: He’s a therapy dog who helps Fisher deal with her bipolar disorder.
Fisher has been very open about the problems with drugs, alcohol, and mental health that she’s struggled with for decades. She was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 29, about 10 years after she’d become famous for the role of Leia Organa in Star Wars.
Gary, at about three years old, is a relatively new part of that struggle, but an important one. In a 2013 interview, she described her relationship with the dog as being complicated and essential:
Gary is mental also. My mother says Gary is a hooligan. Gary is like my heart. Gary is very devoted to me, and that calms me down.
Gary has become his own kind of media star. Mashable recently wrote that one of the good things about getting a new Star Wars movie this year is that we’d get to see more of Gary.
It’s easy to focus on Gary’s cuteness; he is pretty darn cute, and even Fisher herself has a tendency to go that way on her Twitter feed.
But Gary’s true role as a therapy dog tends to get lost when that’s the focus, and we could really use a few reminders about how important and common therapy dogs and emotional support animals are.
The same goes for mental illness itself; the media has had a tendency to depict Fisher’s problems as nothing more than self-indulgent celebrity antics, even though she’s been honest and realistic about what it’s like to be bipolar. So in a lot of ways, it really is good to see more of Gary. The coolest thing about Gary is that he’s such a public example of a therapy dog working to help someone overcome mental health issues. Hopefully people will come to understand both of those things.
Here’s hoping that Carrie and Gary have a great May the Fourth.
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