GUEST POST: Therapy pups aren't just for the physically disabled

By Caitlin Renton
Meant to Live Guest Writer

One of my typical “medications” for anxiety is a regular dose of the outdoors. But the opportunities I’ve had this summer to walk trails have been ruined by standard, unpredictable Michigan weather conditions.

Mostly, it’s been too hot to spend too much of my time outside, which has ultimately led my usual anxiety to morph into an unexpected depression. Just recently, I even skipped my monthly outdoor recreational event because it was too hot outside to be running around in the woods.

What has seemed to help me out of my slump and remained a constant in my life, though, is the unconditional love I receive from my pets. I feed them, play with them and provide shelter, and in turn, they somehow manage to get me through every day.

My big, furry Maine Coon jumps up to snuggle with me right when I'm about to get up to do some mundane housework. My two smaller cats meow worriedly whenever they sense panic in my voice, as if they're joining in on the conversation. My dog jumps up on my recliner to snuggle with me when I’m feeling gloomy. He makes himself at home right next to me or on top of me like a lap dog, even though he knows he's a bit too oversized to fit. It’s like he knows exactly when I'm feeling down and wants me to know he’s there for support.

Getting To Know Therapy Dogs

Research shows that dogs (and other animals) can actually be healing when it comes to mental health. In fact, therapy pups are becoming increasingly popular. My close friend Mallory Wolf and a few of her family members take their therapy dogs to hospitals to help bring sick people joy. Mallory’s miniature pincher/chihuahua Luxy became a certified therapy dog this year and has already made friends with a handful of hospital patients.

“Whenever they see him, they light up and look so happy,” Mallory told me. “He really makes a difference in their day.”

Dogs have also been brought in as a means for students to de-stress before finals at some colleges like Oakland University. They can bring pleasure to people who have anxiety and depression, as well, as Mallory mentioned about her dog.

“I have anxiety and, if I’m feeling really anxious or sad, having Luxy around really makes me feel better,” she said. “He’s always there for me and will stay with me as long as I need him to.”

Her family was recently featured on WXYZ 7 Action News as “three generations of women with therapy dogs.”

Resources for Coping With Mental Health Disorders

With so many of my friends and family members experiencing similar bouts of depression this year, they help me know that I’m not alone. It may be harder for them to reach out to people, though. It’s important for individuals who don’t face anxiety or depression to check in on their suffering friends and try to remain informed on the topic.

My significant other has been trying to turn my unhappiness into positivity, lately. The other day, he jokingly used two phrases that stood out to me: “Don’t worry” and “Be okay.” Those are two expressions you should avoid saying to someone who has anxiety or depression.

Thankfully, the internet is a great source to find encouraging words you can say to your friends and family members who are suffering from mental illness.

If comforting reassurances from loved ones don’t always raise your spirits, you can rescue a furry friend for life so you can keep each other happy.


Caitlin Renton is a freelance writer from Michigan who finds solace in spending time with her pets and has great enthusiasm for animals. See more of her work at

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