One of my resolutions this year was to take better care of my mental health. And spend more time with puppies.
So when I heard that my school was offering free pet therapy services, I melted a little.
I am a major dog enthusiast. My father is allergic to dogs, though, and I’ve always resented that a little bit, even though it’s not at all his fault. It’s like resenting the ground for being underfoot. It really doesn’t have any say in the matter. Nonetheless, I do admit to holding a tiny grudge against his allergies for the entirety of my childhood because it meant that I didn’t get to have a fuzzy little puppy to hug and play fetch with growing up. Instead, I got a gecko.
Now, when I say I am a dog enthusiast, I don’t want you to start thinking that I actually know anything about dogs. I just really like watching videos of them try to jump over things or attack their own reflection on youtube. Also, my limited range of knowledge is even further limited to only a few species; namely, corgis and dachshunds.
So when I say “dog enthusiast” I actually mean “that creepy girl who lives in your apartment building and awkwardly stares at your dog with an adoring, longing look whenever she sees you getting your mail.”
Yep, that’s me.
I’m not quite sure when this obsession started.
I think it was when I first found out that corgis existed, and then when I started seeing dachshunds around my neighbourhood. Regardless, the obsession has taken ahold of me and it seems like it’s here for good.
So, when I heard about pet therapy services, my heart skipped. Could this be my opportunity to finally interact with a dog, to fulfill that longing in my heart? I had been walking by our health services office at my school when I saw a poster of an adorable little dog advertising pet therapy. I asked if the pet therapy was every week, and the girl responded “Yeah! It’s great–last week we actually had a golden retriever puppy visit for a bit! It’s a lot of fun.” I was sold.
I immediately put “puppy therapy” into my planner as a recurring event. That should have been my first clue. Rather than “pet therapy,” I wrote “puppy therapy.” (This choice of words is an important indicator of the disappointment I was setting myself up for.)
All week I waited patiently, anticipating Friday’s chance for what I was sure would be the most magical puppy experience of my entire life thus far. I had images of walking through the hallway to the room where the dogs would be, hearing little yips and the sound of nails scampering on the tile floors we have at school. I imagined walking into a room and being greeted by dozens of sloppy puppy kisses and more fluffy love than I could handle, bursting into tears at the sheer joy and amazement of what was happening. I daydreamed scooping up a little dachshund puppy while a few corgis jumped at my legs and a golden retriever puppy licked my face. Absolute heaven, I tell you.
My daydreams started getting out of hand. I started imagining having to step over one of those baby gates to enter a swarm of fluff and little doggy noses so thick I couldn’t see the floor. Somehow, among that sea of puppies, my worries and stresses would be lost. It would be magical, I tell you. Pure magic.
Finally it came. It was Friday. I was mere hours away from puppy ecstasy. As soon as the hour hit I was there, waiting for the puppy therapy glory to begin.
After waiting for what seemed like hours (it was about 7 minutes) I was told I could go in. Heart racing, I walked through the door to see…
One lone adult dog surrounded by 9 other students.
I stopped, dazed. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. Sure, the dog was beautiful and seemed friendly enough, but where was my sea of golden retriever puppies the girl had promised me mere days before? Where were the forty corgis waiting to love me? Where were the dachshund puppies for me to cuddle?
I had come to frolic in meadows with puppies, darn it, and all I get is one dog? That I have to share with others? I’m homeschooled. I don’t have much experience sharing. Besides, dogs aren’t meant to be shared–they’re meant to be coveted, kept all to yourself.
After the shock wore off, I sat down in the circle of students around the dog. We all awkwardly waited our turn to dutifully pat the dog and get kisses and then we just left. That was it.
I walked out of the building feeling conflicted and empty.
How could I have been so wrong about what to expect? Why didn’t I see that my expectations were really nowhere near reality?
The simple fact that I wrote “puppy therapy” instead of “pet therapy” in my planner should have been a red flag. It’s not puppy therapy. There is no promise of puppies. There’s not even any promise of plural dogs. When the girl said that they were lucky to have a golden retriever puppy visit last week I should have seen that as an indicator that having puppies there was abnormal. Implying that usually the dogs were adult dogs, not puppies. So much easily avoidable disappointment.
As well, most of my puppy therapy fantasies would have broken probably at least 25 health codes at our school. Having so many puppies that you can’t see the ground? Really? That’s just bound to end badly.
But that’s the problem with our imagination, isn’t it?
It is so freaking easy to get carried away when we let our minds run wild. We convince ourselves that we’d prefer our lives if we were dating someone else, if we were in a different major, if our family was different, if we were prettier, anything. But what if it’s all an illusion?
What if all of our fantasies aren’t all that they’re cracked up to be?
I’ve had so many people telling me that their lives would be so much easier if they could just work as hard as I do at school. But you know what? My work ethic has fostered unhealthy anxiety in my life. I’ve often thought that my life would be easier if I were as pretty as my sister, but she’s always had to deal with people not taking her as seriously as they do me because she’s the prettier one (they don’t say it like that–they say things like “you’re just so fun!” or “you’re just so cute and blonde.” No one says those things to me.). It’s just a fact–our imaginations are unusually gifted in creating a reality much better than the actual reality in front of us.
But what is so wrong about just being OK with life the way it is?
Why can’t we just accept that we are the way we look, the way we talk, and the family we came from? What would happen if, for once, we all just decided to be content with the life we have, instead of always looking to our “what ifs” to make our life “worth it?”
Personally, I’m done being disappointed in the reality that I have. I’m done being disappointed by just one dog when I wanted a parade of puppies. Instead, let’s learn how to appreciate what is in front of us instead of wishing for ice cream in the clouds. Or thousands of puppy kisses.
What is a daydream you’ve been disappointed by?
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