A tribute to the canine who saved me

Dogs are always saving people, and we hear about these heroes on the news. But we don't often hear about the dogs that are everyday heroes – the dogs that save us from ourselves.

When I ran out of things, I still had my dog. In fact, at the rock bottom of my life, I only had my dog. While struggling with mental health problems and alcoholism, my black and white pit bull Brayson saved me daily.

Brayson's name was meant to sound quiet and approachable for fear of the stigma pit bulls have faced in recent years. And he was soft, kind, and loving. At my worst moments, during my fights, I would promise Brayson that a house with a fenced-in back yard would come.

When Brayson and I first moved, I had just broken up with a relaxing friend after a sad and bitter divorce. I was broken inside and felt unworthy of love. I drank a lot to relieve the pain and manage my constant depression and mood swings. This started years of jumping from one rented room to another and begging people to accept my dog. We often had no destination and were often homeless.

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That was the least of my problems. The first time Brayson and I got separated was because I made a major suicide attempt. I lived with a close friend and I knew Brayson would be safe and well looked after there. While I was in the hospital, I was told I was bipolar and an alcoholic. That I would never get better if I didn't sober up. I was crying and not sure how to go on living the way I had, not sure how to change, and I was scared.

I was still crippled with depression. Brayson rested in the car while I attended 12-step meetings, trying not to drink. He stayed by my side as I tried to get out of bed. He licked my long, unwashed arms and face and encouraged me to take a shower. In tears, I told him about a future with this fenced-in back yard and held him tight through the pain. Brayson attended every doctor's appointment with me and the staff got to know him well. In the end, my doctor prescribed Brayson as a medically needed auxiliary animal.

After four years of sobriety and a battle for sanity, I felt better. I started my studies again with Brayson by my side. After seven years of fighting, I was finally fine and we got the house with the fenced-in back yard. A week after we moved in, Brayson stopped eating and the vet confirmed my worst fear: Brayson, only seven years old, died of kidney failure. I would have to say goodbye to my best friend, the dog who saved my life.

There is nothing stronger than a dog's loyalty. Brayson helped me heal and loved me when I couldn't love myself. I think he was so loyal that he waited until I was sure to die.

I am still sober and my sanity is stable. Nobody would ever think I was as sick as I was. Brayson passed away almost four years ago. I now have another dog, Jack, an older pit bull. Jack was 13 then I adopted him; It was my way of thanking Brayson for everything he did for me. I am grateful that I give a home to dogs who, because of their age, run the risk of unwanted attention.

Yes, dogs save people – sometimes dogs save us from ourselves.

Dedicated to my cute baboo, Brayson Christopher.

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