The Importance of Pets

'Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened' - Anatole France

Growing up; Mum's family had a dog (Judy) when I was first born and she used to sit by me while I slept; guarding me, and then I had two rabbits called Happy and Thumper that we kept in my Nana and Grandad's garden.
Then, towards the end of First School (so probably around the age of 7 of 8?) I started to look after hamsters. I can remember them all; Dusky, Sunny, Lottie, two Russian Dwarves called Daisy and Sam, a gerbil called Jelly (who no one liked because they thought it's tail looked a rat's) and finally Butter. Growing up with pets was lovely because as a child, I always wanted to play. I had a huge imagination and so my pets not only gave me 'someone' to play with 24/7, but they also grounded me in that I had to be sensible with them and I think it meant I also learnt - to a certain degree - responsibility.

'Time spent with cats is never wasted' - Sigmund Freud

When I was in Middle School, my Mum and I got a cat! Saffy. We made enquiries as to whether any kittens were for sale in our area and when we finally found someone, Saffy was just 1 week old. And so we visited her every week until she could leave her Mum. She was so timid when we first brought her home. Unfortunately I don't remember much of my childhood (not because it was bad) so I don't really remember Saffy growing up, but I remember how sick she used to get until we found the right diet for her. And I remember those days when I was coming home from being hurt and my Mum would be at work so Saffy was my comfort. I also remember - because she still does it - how she'd just jump on your lap, make herself comfortable, and sleep there for hours! Mum and I were frequently saying "I need a wee but she looks too cute to move her!" And then, when I first got poorly (with my mental health), any time that I wasn't on a train or in hospital I'd be home with Saffy while Mum worked. That cat has seen some bad things in her life. The one I think that the worst was when the entire crisis services and all of the Police in my town, were in our home. Sectioning me. Even if she didn't see me being carried out, she'll have heard the noise... As well, it wasn't often but when I would cut at home, I would lock her out of whichever room I was doing it in; I tried to spare her of some of it. And when I was in a psychiatric hospital over 100 miles from home, for two and a half years, Saffy became my Mum's best companion. When I was finally granted escorted leave home, I was worried she wouldn't remember me; and when I finally had unescorted leave at home for Christmas, she jumped on my lap, snuggled up, and went to sleep purring. My Mum took a photo of me crying with happiness that Saffy hadn't forgotten me, and she still loves me.

'Some people are like cats - if they're dropped upside down, they land on their feet' - Peter Segal 

And then came Dolly! She was my recovery goal for so long that it's overwhelming to finally have her; even after over a year I still get that feeling when I look at her. And when I see her pink spotty collar that'd been hanging from a photo frame for over a year in hospital as motivation to get better, I can't believe it's actually around her fluffy neck!

I lived in my own home for a week before Dolly was allowed to leave her Mum and even though she hadn't been there yet, my new home still felt like a piece was missing. And when she got here, and was exploring every room, it felt like she'd always been there. Her kitten months were amazing and hilarious, and when I look back at photos during that time I can't believe she was ever that small! Unfortunately, I still had some poorly episodes after getting Dolly and so once, the Police knocked the door in when she was home alone, and at least twice, she's seen me pouring of blood. I never want to regret anything in my life but if I could go back to then... It would've been different. So that, and her traumatic experience at the Vets when she was spayed (apparently she was so aggressive that she had to be brought to me in a cage covered by a blanket. But I put my hand in, pulled her out and she cuddled in to me and started purring), finally accumulated into her wetting my bed and becoming aggressive with visitors. Everyone said she was being a normal cat by being protective, but I knew there was more to it. The vets have said she has anxiety and so she is constantly waiting for 
something to happen. She never relaxes. And then when other people come into our home it overstimulates her. Many people will have different opinions on this but I don't care any more; I will not defend my cat's mental health in the way I had to my own. We all have it. And because I ignored everyone and stuck to my instincts, she was put on a medication that has a hugely positive affect on her. 
It's common knowledge (as it is constantly publicised) that many people still have a more understanding and sympathetic attitude towards physical illness than they do mental, so I guess it would make sense that this still applies to animals. On Supervet (a C4 documentary), you constantly hear owners saying they'd do anything for their pets; whether that means they have to have their pets limb amputated, or have them put to sleep. Yet, for some reason people laugh when I say Dolly has had a Behaviour Therapist and is on anti-anxiety meds, and when they have the audacity to question the financial aide of this and I tell them "she's worth it. I'd do anything for her," they laugh even harder and they're like 'but a therapist? Really?!'
Dolly will have the world because she is my world. 

Now go buy a pet!

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