02/03/15 My Mental Health Care Menagerie

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I am an animal lover from way back, we always had cats as pets when I was a child and as I grew up I decided to volunteer for a number of years as a wildlife carer, which was very fulfilling but also very draining in a strange way.  It is so joyful to release an animal you have rescued back out into the wild but it is also heart breaking when they die in your care.

Meanwhile I also, as an adult, have always had pets of my own.  My pet cockatiel “Mr Puppy” (because he thinks he’s a dog) has been with me for well over a decade now.  My connection with him is incredible, and it devastates me just to think about the fact that he may not have many years left in him, because we are unsure how old he was when we got him because he was a rescue.  He is incredibly in tune with my emotions and will sing to me when I am sad or anxious to try to cheer me up, it is amazing how empathetic he is.

Over the past decade I have also owned a pet pig (who grew too large and had to move to a farm where she is living happily – her name is Moo Moo and she was fully trained just like a dog – walked on a lead, sat on command, shook hands (or hooves) on command etc etc.  An amazing pet and incredibly clever, but we just didn’t have enough space for her and it was becoming evident that she needed the space, so even though it broke my heart we re-homed her.  I miss her badly even still.  I will admit I cried for months after she left us, it actually sent me into a depression for a few months.

Around the same time we also owned a duck and a chicken, who were best mates.  I am mortified to have to admit that they were killed by a local dog, I cried for a long time when it happened.  They had their own pool and sleeping quarters that they shared, they ate together, played together, basically never left one anothers side, it was really adorable.

A couple of years after Moo Moo moved on, I was finally ready for another pet I could grow a special bond with.  I had never owned a dog and was skeptical about how much companionship they actually provided, but my husband talked me into it and we bought an English Staffy.  We named her Karma and my bond with her was instant.  She has barely left my side since, and especially when I am unwell, she acts like a body guard, protecting me from anything negative.  She is amazing, so intelligent, so intuitive and so much fun!  She goes basically everywhere with me – including coming to Brisbane when I need to have treatment.  I know some of you will think it is unsanitary but she sleeps in my bed with me no matter what and if my husband isn’t there she snuggles up to me and helps me sleep because I suffer badly from insomnia.  She is basically a care dog, just like a seeing eye dog except her speciality is being acutely aware of my moods and alerting someone if I need help or encouraging me to focus on something else if we are by ourselves.  She has quite literally stopped me committing suicide and/or self harming on a number of occasions.  The fact that she won’t live as long as me worries me greatly, I don’t know how I could live without her these days.  I should also note however that as her name suggests “Karma” she can be good karma but she can also be bad karma from time to time too lol.

I have also owned MANY guinea pigs over my time, in fact at one stage I was breeding them and I LOVED it!  Now, due to my mental health issues I really don’t have time to care for them all so I have brought it down to just one guinea pig whose name is Eloise and she is a little sweetheart.  Loves to be cuddled and loves to eat (you could say she’s a pig!).  When I need a quiet moment to just focus my attention on something positive, I cuddle Eloise and her innocence and vulnerability remind me that I am needed and loved and that my life is worthwhile.

Last but definitely not least is our little devil “Clarisse”.  Clarisse is an Eclectus Parrot (about 25-30cm tall, bright red and purple feathers) who is VERY independent.  She likes to be in the room with you and occasionally comes over for cuddles but mostly she keeps to herself.  I love watching her play with her myriad of toys and listening to her talk – saying things like, “Karma Come” (which is quite confusing for Karma), “I love you”, “Step Up” and so on.  It’s so cute!  On the down side she can be temperamental and aggressive and we have to watch ourselves that we don’t get bitten by her when she has decided she’s had enough cuddles or that she doesn’t want to do what we are asking her to do.  It is weird, but in a strange way I kind of like this independent attitude of hers, I find it endearing most of the time (not so much when I’ve just been bitten lol).

So that’s it, that’s my menagerie, all of whom in their own ways positively effect my mental health and help me stay sane most of the time!

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