By Cari Hurley
To reduce stress, anxiety and depression, people seek out a variety of costly methods. Some embark on expensive vacations. Others self-medicate using illegal substances and descend into debt, destruction and even death. Recently, I bought into an untraditional method: love and responsibility. It cost only $50 and came with a free chew toy.
For several years, I have fought depression, which has been further exacerbated by the demands of college. Although traditional methods like counseling and antidepressants have been helpful, these strategies sometimes fail me.
To cope, I frequently trek to my mother’s house to visit the family pets, a loving cat and Shih Tzu mix, for a quick dopamine boost.
Obtaining my own emotional support animal, a type of service animal protected by the law, seemed like the most natural step forward. To outsiders, a support animal may seem to be a glorified pet, but even before I adopted my own, I understood the therapeutic qualities of animals.
When I met my new emotional support animal for the first time at the Tonawanda SPCA, I instantly recognized that curative nature in her sad brown eyes. I came to the shelter to find a small, adult dog, but those qualifications went out the window once I started combing those cages and met Kelly.
Even before I officially adopted her, it was clear that such an exceptional dog belonged in a “furever” home, not a cage.
Kelly was a 65-pound Rottweiler who was surrendered by a woman with several pets looking to downsize. She was well-trained, non-destructive and gentle, despite her size and breed. I quickly fell in love with her tranquility and gregarious personality.
The next 24 hours were a whirlwind of activity: persuading my parents to allow me to bring her home, signing lots of paperwork and, of course, choosing a special moniker for her. I settled on Torie, the name of my childhood friend who passed away almost a year to the day I took my support animal home.
Torie, the human, had encouraged me to seek help when I first started experiencing symptoms of depression. On Oct. 18, 2016, Torie, the dog, began her new life at the ripe old age of 11.
Now that Torie and I have lived together for several months, I often wonder why she was surrendered. Every day, she surprises me with her intelligence and charming personality. She loves to “shake hands” with others and frequently lays her paw on my lap so that she can receive praise and pets. Torie also sits on command and lies down next to me in public places, almost like a full-fledged service dog.
But perhaps her best quality is her amicable nature. She has quickly befriended all of the humans and most of the canines at my apartment complex. She especially loves the maintenance employees who take the time to greet her when she is out on a walk.
Of course, adopting any dog is challenging and Torie has presented her share of problems: developing a UTI the day before Thanksgiving, running at an alarming speed on walks and, perhaps the hardest for my parents to endure, monopolizing half of the couch. Still, I am truly amazed by the caliber of the adoptable animals at the SPCA.
Since Torie’s adoption, I have noticed a positive difference in my mood, and even sleep soundly every night with my girl by my side. I am overcome with happiness; my life has never been so complete. It has been a joy to not only save the life of a loving canine but to have her return the favor.