Like everyone else, I love myself a good binge-session on Netflix and my latest favorite is Border Security. It’s easy to put on in the background while I do laundry or take care of things around the house, and one thing I’m seeing a lot more of (besides people lying about bringing food into the country) is having an emotional support animal board the plane with you.
I’ve seen this all over the internet recently whether it’s people who have gone through the process of getting their pet certified as a service animal or just emotionally leaning on their pet when they need comfort, and I often think that many people abuse the term ‘emotional support animal’ – just because you find your pet’s love and affection comforting doesn’t mean you can take that animal everywhere and circumvent rules.
That being said, when we moved down to Texas we were faced with a small problem. Well, two small problems – our two guinea pigs. Turns out most, if not all airlines will not allow guinea pigs into their cabin due to a lack of vaccination records (the records aren’t there because no such vaccines exist for guinea pigs). After many half-joking conversations about declaring the pigs our ‘emotional support rodents’ we eventually settled on driving down with Roxy and Boo sprawled very happily across the backseat.
The option existed to give them away to a classroom of students or a friend, but the thought of losing my furry friends was unthinkable. Why, though? They’re $30 rodent pets, found in every pet store.
It led me to think about why I find dog walking so beneficial, because my mood is immeasurably better after I volunteer with the dog shelter. My conclusion was that dogs (and all pets) don’t have negative opinions on people for their issues; pets don’t inherently dislike or judge someone by anything other than their actions, so the social anxiety aspect is instantly evaporated around animals.
We weren’t able to get dogs in our previous homes and I’m allergic to cats so we settled on guinea pigs.
Every time I was feeling down, Cam would go get one of the pigs and settle her on my lap, because if nothing else, forcing me to care for someone or something else even in the smallest way was enough to bring me out of my head. Plus, there’s something calming about seeing your pet nestled in your lap. If a neurotic prey animal like Roxy can be calm, I can too.
A week ago yesterday Boo passed away. It was sudden and very unexpected, and I think a little part of me broke inside. Cam was away at work and I had to deal with my grief without him for a few days, which was honestly probably the best thing for me. My crutch for emotional support had just died, and my other crutch was 150 miles away and couldn’t comfort me… so I dealt with it. Making sure Roxy was okay was important and very distracting, because while I lost my beloved pet, she lost her bonded pair sister and her roommate and there was about to be a lot more change in her life than mine.
I’m obviously still very sad that Boo is no longer with us, but I’m feeling better every day. Like I said, the day to day changes for me aren’t all that noticeable, and luckily Roxy is handling it better than I expected she would. I still have her to care for and to receive comfort from in return. We may get another pig to keep Roxy company, and I’m not hopeful that she’ll be as snuggly or affectionate as Boo, but she won’t be for me – she’ll be for Roxy.
Caring for your pet is what I think offers the most relief from whatever plagues your mind. I’m sure someone has fish who you could say are comforting to their owners, because you can’t snuggle fish but having a routine of cleaning the cage and buying tank accessories could be your catharsis. People (my parents, actually) have made light-hearted fun of me for having conversations with my rodents – yeah, I’ll admit, it’s weird, but it’s my weird.
Sometimes I just gotta be weird to be okay.