Last night I had trouble falling asleep. An hour passed before I called my dog, Penny, to come lie down next to me so that her head was on my pillow next to mine. I put my arm around Penny and fell asleep.
The night before was worse. I had Penny next to me, but I kept tossing and turning no thanks to a mosquito, which I killed the next day. Penny didn’t sleep either.
If I didn’t have Penny, I don’t know think I would sleep much. I remember having trouble sleeping for about ten years after 9/11. During the latter years, I had Penny, but didn’t know yet how she would help me sleep. I used to have her sleep in a chair next to my bed.
Penny also nudges me when I’m withdrawn. She started doing this on her own without training. That would count her as a bona fide service animal. She lies down in direct sight, her eyes almost always on me if not closed or checking out the environment.
She is a rescued dog, discovered on the street in the Bronx, taken to a city shelter where she was past due to be euthanized. She was “too cute,” the shelter workers said. A woman named Linda took her out of the shelter and into her home until she found Penny foster carers. Then my roommate at the time adopted her. Penny misbehaved, not because she was a bad dog, but because she was trying to get her needs met. I got tired of first thing in the morning stepping in her pee on the bathroom floor (always the bathroom floor, good dog); so tired that I started training her and walking her on a short leash. Long story short, my roommate gave her to me.
Turns out Penny rescues me more than I’ve rescued her. Her presence helps me be calm. She helps me get up in the morning. She helps me keep my dissociative episodes in check and reminds me to get out of the house more.
Everyone with PTSD should have an assistance pet. And it should be considered a service animal.