In the day program I attend three afternoons a week, we do lots of different things, many of them involve physical exercises. Not exercise, but movement things. Often the instructions are vague for a reason – to let us come up with our own understanding of the task and see what we can share. One day the instruction was to talk a walk down the hall like you normally would, and then take a walk down the hall with a witness. In mindfulness the idea of the witness is thinking about what a situation looks like to someone else — not to your own personal feelings about how it looks. For example, I had a panic attack in the grocery store. My feelings were horrible, and it felt like the end of the world. But to a witness, it would just have looked like someone who was checking their shopping list more often than usual.
One of the options was for the witness/companion to be nature, or an animal or something. I imagined a small cat walking next to me and it felt really nice. In discussions I mentioned that and thought how neat it was. I thought about how nice it would be to have a puppy hanging out with me like that, and that’s when I came up with the idea of an imaginary therapy dog. He’s Harvey, after the movie with Jimmy Stewart. So now I do my best to remember Harvey, and imagine what he might be doing. Sitting at my feet, wandering the room sniffing around, doing puppy things. He’s pretty low maintenance, too. Never piddles on the carpet!
I don’t mean to make light of actual therapy animals, and I certainly don’t rate one. It’s really just the idea of having a little buddy around when I need him. A real dog is out of the question due to family restrictions, and to be honest I don’t know that I’d be able to take care of a dog as well as I take care of my children. Dogs are so much more work! I’ve never had to take my child out into the backyard in the dark cold of a February night just so they could pee.
I had a mental image but wanted something representative, so I doodled a little drawing of him. I’m not a big tattoo guy (don’t have any) but if I did, I’d consider a tiny little version somewhere I would see on a regular basis. Maybe some day.