All of us at FORGE have pets who often pop onto our screens during meetings, or make appearances by walking right in front of the camera or barking for attention from the other room. We pause every time an animal appears for a moment to appreciate their cuteness. Pets bring us joy and shape our daily lives around walks, medication routines, and cuddles in bed. They can also be a key part of healing, providing comfort and consistent companionship. We asked FORGE staff to share a little bit about their pets, and how the relationship between pets and healing looks for each of us.
My partner didn’t want a dog. He definitely didn’t want a dog that licked faces (i.e., his). But I had wanted a lap dog for decades, and I was determined, so we went to a shelter and picked one out. She’s definitely lap dog size – about 15 pounds – and she’s affectionate as anything. What I like most about having her is what she does to my partner. His schedule is later than mine, so nearly every morning she gets the chance to jump on him in bed, bouncing around and licking and nipping and striking poses (she has really long legs and can move them into amazing positions) and, sometimes, playing zoomies round and round the bed. Why is this so great to me? My partner laughs. And laughs and laughs and laughs. More laughter than I ever hear from him. He may not have wanted her, but something tells me he’s changed his mind. I just listen from the other room, smiling.
I adopted my dog, Winnie, around the start of the pandemic, so she’s very much a “pandemic puppy” (even though she’s 8 years old). We’re both very attached to each other and spend most of our time in the same room–me, working at my desk, Winnie asleep under the blankets on my bed or cuddled up on my lap. We both get some separation anxiety from each other, so it’s been a challenge working up to getting Winnie comfortable in her crate while I’m gone. She’s taught me to be very patient and gentle, and reminds me not to get so frustrated with myself when I can’t do something right away, because I wouldn’t react to her that way for trying to learn something new.
Winnie is probably the calmest chihuahua I’ve ever met. She loves to be held like a baby, and makes herself completely comfortable while in someone’s lap–mine, or a stranger’s at the dog park–by resting her little snout on your arm. She’s a lot more outgoing and social than I am, which ends up being a great conversation starter at the dog park: “Yep, that’s my little dog that just jumped into your lap!” Winnie has this instant ability to connect with people by staring into your eyes, which my sister has described as her “loving gaze.” I think she stares into your soul to steal your secrets!
Winnie and I spend a lot of time sitting out on the porch at my apartment. I love to watch her nose twitch as she picks up different scents in the air, and her ears turn toward sounds around the complex–a car door slamming, kids playing, someone talking on the phone. When I get too caught up in the fast pace of life and trying to get things done, I try to see the world through her eyes: with endless curiosity and attention for each moment, sound, and smell.
We definitely have our challenges. Winnie’s separation anxiety and barking has made it difficult to leave her alone for longer than a couple of hours. Luckily, I have some very supportive friends who offer to spend time with Winnie when I’ll be gone for a while. We’ve also had some scary moments and overnight vet visits–Winnie has a talent for getting onto tables and counters, opening tupperware, and getting into foods that she’s not supposed to have. Through all of it, Winnie has been my cuddle buddy and friend during the isolation of the pandemic. She reminds me to laugh, to be patient, and to be present to the world around me.
What is the relationship like between pets and healing for you?
As someone who does a lot of caretaking and works to have relationships feel restorative, pets are the ultimate companions and motivators. Animals can sense when you need extra love and their deep sighs can punctuate silence. During times of anxiety, they’ve grounded me to be calm. During times of depression, they’ve roused me to refill their food and water bowls and get out the house (or sometimes, just the bed).
What do you enjoy doing with your pets?
snuggling and long walks.
What is special about your pets?
All of our pets are rescues and need an extra layer of care. For example, Buddy has terrible skin allergies. The upside is he’ll eat any medicine as long as it’s wrapped in American cheese. Buddy’s unique in that he has a nubbin for a tail. Buddy and Byron are both power chewers and can quickly demolish toys meant for much larger, strong jawed breeds.
What have you learned from your pets?
There’s something magical about how excited a dog is to greet you when you come home, whether you’ve been gone for 30 minutes or hours. Buddy’s ritual is to grab a toy from their toy box, bark, nubbin furiously wagging, and have his nose to the door, ready to say “hi!” as soon as he possibly can. It’s moments like those that remind me to have joy in everyday activities. The fur babies also prioritize rest, especially after playing.
reed’s pet profiles:
Buddy aka Sock-a-dile, Muppet, Medium Dog, Mustache Man
A few years after moving into our home, Buster Brown, a senior long haired chihuahua mix, crossed the rainbow bridge. My partner and I found ourselves with a dog sized hole in our hearts. We browsed the re-homing page of our local SPCA and stumbled across Buddy. Buddy had been gifted by grandparents to a family who could no longer give him the attention he needed. After a meet and greet, he joined our cats. For a medium dog, he has a big bark! In typical pet fashion, he has a lot of nicknames. We call him a sock-a-dile because he loves to steal socks, carry them around, and bury them in blankets or in between sofa cushions. He’s affectionately known as the one “with people eyes” and our muppet because of how his fur grows.
Martini aka Tini
Martini’s most recent human had to move into a hospice which, unfortunately, didn’t accept pets. Like our other integrations, he got along with our existing household, so he was adopted into our family. Fast forward six years and he’s our cuddly old man and babysitter to our youngest human. You often find him twinning with Triscuit when they sleep side-by-side.
Byron aka Little Dog
Three years ago, we babysat for a speckled dachshund while his human was on vacation. After the week was up we knew Buddy needed a friend his size. I passively began to look at local rescue pages for a companion who would get along with cats, dogs, and children. As luck would have it, a small dog rescue out of South Carolina transports from the deep South up the East Coast. After reading about his origins in Byron, Georgia I knew we had to visit this little guy. Once Byron got home and settled in, it was as if he’d always been Buddy’s brother. As we added human children to our household, Byron took on the role of overseeing our son from in utero to infancy. Now that he’s a toddler, Byron is less thrilled with the small active human…which is offset by all the new “people food” he gets to try. Buddy and Byron keep each other balanced and are happiest chasing critters outdoors or sleeping in our bed.
Our pandemic adoption! A former co-worker, who lives in the country, noticed a friendly young cat coming around their house. Their dog was not having it! The co-worker asked around to make sure he wasn’t lost, given that he had been neutered and seemed cared for. When no one came forward, she explored who could adopt him. After being humanely trapped, we got the call to foster until a rescue had space. He quickly became a foster “fail” as we named him Triscuit (Biscuit) and became attached. He is a spunky brown tabby that we guesstimate to be four. He keeps Martini active, can transform anything into a toy, and does the two a.m. zoomies.
Winter Holiday Dinosaur PJs (2021)
Pets have a special place in our lives. With all their quirks and uniqueness, they can be a welcome distraction from the stress of everyday life (or sometimes an addition to it)! They add fun, connection, and companionship to our days.