Animal hair kinda makes me crazy. It gets everywhere. On your couch, clothes, floors... everywhere. You can never wear black and have to keep a lint roller in your car. Keeping up with the constant trickle of hair is a big job, and when you have indoor pets the additional needs of consistent grooming, bathing, and care is formidable. There's just way too much dealing with poop. It's like having a kid around the house. A furry, sometimes, smelly kid.
Six years ago, after long conversations with doctors and therapists, my wife pushed me into the car and drove us to the local animal shelter. Once there she positioned me in front of a bunch of kittens and said, "pick." We went home that day with two cats; brothers and littermates we named Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson. In short order they became my sofa mates, too. I spent a lot of time on the couch.
Rewinding a little: At twenty two I was diagnose with PTSD and shortly after that, developed a healthy case of depression. Despite struggling through additional physical health issues on top of it all, I pushed on, because thats what you do. I was a full-time student in a competitive program, had a part-time job working as the senior research assistant for the Associate Dean of BYU's Religion Dept., had an internship at the LDS Church History Library, and filled a demanding volunteer position at church. If you've ever heard the phrase, "Fake it till you make it," don't believe it. It made me crazy. The medications I once used to treat my health, were soon abused in some really unhealthy ways. I'm not sure the at which point I became an addict. I didn't recognize it at the time.
Shortly after the death of my mother in-law everything came to a head all at once: my PTSD, depression, and substance abuse. Everything jackknifed out of control. I literally didn't know which way was up. Any sense of reality failed me. My darkest hour found me floating alone in the Provo river, during a December snow flurry. I thought my family deserved better than me. They would be better off without me. I thought how perfect hypothermia would be, just falling asleep forever. God and some good friends rallied together and I survived, but spent a total of 2 and a half weeks in the hospital psych ward. Snow flakes still make me a little crazy.
I know we've all seen movies and tv shows with psych wards. I assure you the reality is far better and far worse. I don't regret my time there, but I hope to God that I never have to go back. I have first hand experience with padded rooms. It made me crazy, but it made me more whole. I got home and after continued substance abuse for another few months I overdosed. Home alone, I took 20 pills at once. Passed out on the floor and didn't wake up for 6 hours. That was the last time I used narcotics or abused prescription drugs.
I quit cold turkey. White knuckled it. For the first six months I didn't leave the house. Literally. Weeks at a time, all I could do was walk from the bed to the couch and back again at the end of the day. At that point, we adopted Holmes and Watson and they took on my case. Holmes would curl up on my chest and purr for hours at a time. I was never alone. Annalaura, who was faithfully working and supporting our family, would come home in the evening and find Holmes and I in the same place and position we were when she left that morning. Holmes would literally try to lay on my face. I didn't mind until his hair started to go up my nose and tickle like crazy.
(Not enough good could ever be said about my strong and determined wife. She has stood by me, when I have abhorred from standing by myself. She has fought and struggled for me when I have been unable to do so on my own.)
Years have passed and I've grown stronger and healthier and life has settled into a manageable rollercoaster, but all that I lost in those dark days has grown back in full and ten-fold. There are still seasons of struggle and strain. Color in the world seems to dull and darken. Reality seems to warp, relationships change, and situations shift. Then there are days, weeks, and years of calm happiness. We were blessed with a beautiful and passionate baby boy, Eli. We brought him home from the hospital to Holmes and Watson. They carefully inspected the carseat when he came home. One of Eli's first words was, "Kitty." I started school again and am working full-time to support my family. Through all this, Holmes and Watson remained a constant.
Last fall after a long battle with kidney issues, Holmes died. Three weeks later Watson followed. I think he died of loss and sorrow. They were inseparable. When we took one to the vet, we had to take the other in the same case, or they would both get worked up and crazy. They lived together in life and departed together in death. It's one of those sappy brotherly-love stories that movies are made of, and that you try really hard not to love but can't help it.
The support and response we've gotten over the last twenty four hours with our GoFundMe campaign, to get a therapy dog, has been overwhelming and touching. I'm humbled at the love and support we've seen. It's been nearly a year since Holmes and Watson died, and while there is clearly a need for an emotional support animal in my life again, I'm not sure I'll ever be ready for another cat. You just can't replace the brothers, and I'm not even sure a cat would meet our needs right now, anyway. My days of hiding from life at home are gone. I just can't afford it anymore.
I'm fully aware that I'm a little bit crazy, and you know, I'm ok with it. I've seen enough crazy to understand that we all of us have some small portion of it. These furry friends in our lives are like the hair they shed. It gets everywhere, and it makes you crazy. They get on our hearts and in our souls. They get into all the little cracks, stuck and snuggled into each black corner. They soften our shells of pain. It makes you crazy, and it heals you everywhere. When my mental state decided to dress up all in black, I have no inclination to use a lint roller.
Check HERE to learn more about our puppy campaign.