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How Our Pets Help Us Cope

LGBTQ readers share their experiences.


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Photo by Wyatt Ryan on Unsplash

 

I don't know any LGBTQ person living in the United States and watching the news who isn't worried/afraid. These are scary times, so many marginalized communities are literally under attack directly by the current administration, or by the hate-fed individuals/groups it has inspired. My family feels endangered, the lives and families of pretty much everyone I know and care about feel like they are at risk. If you are registered to vote (if you aren't registered to vote please please register to vote!) please please PLEASE vote in the midterm elections. Voting is probably the most important way that we can swing our political system in a direction that doesn’t endanger our lives

 

In the meantime, a lot of us are afraid. I know in my own case what helps me to take care of myself in these scary times is to spend time with my pets. Spending time with my dogs and cats isn’t so much of a “distraction” but it’s a recharge from the world, a way to remember that there is joy and warmth and pleasure. Our pets are with us in the good times and especially in the darkest hours. This has always been true for me - from growing up in an abusive home, to when I came out as queer and became homeless, to now bracing myself every time I read the news - bracing for the assault against me, my family, or other marginalized people. From talking to friends who share their lives and families with pets I knew that I wasn’t alone in feeling like my pets help me to deal with the hard times,  so I put an ask out on social media asking LGBTQ people to share with you how pets are helping them to cope with our current cultural/political moment. My hope is that their stories will soothe, encourage and  resonate as deeply with you as they have with me:

 

“My sweet Endymion & his deep intuition help me recover from a day in the trenches, fighting for queer kids and comprehensive sex ed. We're in Roanoke, VA. More than a friend, he's a familiar. He snuggles when I need it, & if I'm retreating he pulls me out with a request to play.” @ShoelessJess on Twitter

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“I am trans and Jewish. My cat, Beastie, jumps up on my bed to be spooned every night when I go to sleep and every morning when I wake up. She also rests her head on my arm while I’m typing. Her soft fur and rhythmic purring calms my constantly frayed nerves!” - Lucian Kahn, Brooklyn

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“This vampire floof is my emotional support - she helps me get out my aggression at the patriarchy w/tug of war and meters my breathing when I’m panicked. She also demands pets constantly and paws phones/screens of all kinds out of my hands. She’s my hero - her name is Ripley.”  @HeatherBuchheim on Twitter

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“Winky curls up in my lap while I nervous-crochet or in the curve of my knees as I lay in bed, dazed by the news of the day. She also licks my face to get my CPAP mask off, and then lays under my head to push me out of bed. Sometimes it’s those little things that get me up and facing the world. And as she’s gotten more and more brave about walking down the street with all of the kids and surprise noises, I feel a little bit braver with my visibly trans self.” - Jae B, Boston

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“The world is hard and cold, but my cat is soft and warm. It's hard to be actively upset when I have a loud Maine Coon screaming at me until I pick him up and spoon him like a baby. He gives off a strong nap energy that helps me sleep.”  - Ennis

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“The biggest thing that has helped me cope is volunteering at our municipal shelter. I help train dogs to speed up the process of getting adopted, I help teach other volunteers, and I'm an adoption counsellor who meets with prospective adopters and helps them make informed decisions about whether they're ready to welcome a new dog into their family dynamic. I volunteer at the shelter where my wife & I adopted our dog 2.5 years ago, because it's important to me to give back to my adopted city. It helps me cope because when I'm there, I have to stay 100% focused on whatever I'm doing to keep myself safe, to keep our dogs safe, and to keep the visitors safe. I don't think about my finances, I don't think about politics, I don't think about anything but what I'm doing.”  - Becca Hammond-Cahill, Sacramento, CA

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“My dog is the softest and most gentle friend in the world with the sweetest eyes (even if she is very old and can’t see like at all) and sometimes if I can just pretend she’s the only thing that exists, life seems a little more okay.”  -RoAnna Sylver in Portland OR

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“I am trans and the news is deeply disturbing. My two rats provide distraction and emotional support, and in taking care of them I take care of myself. Being able to come home to their faces and cuddles makes a scary day much more bearable and has greatly reduced my depression, anxiety, and PTSD.”  Alex Hayward, Salem MA

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“My best friend Rosie climbs into my lab and licks tears :( She helps me calm down enough to sleep and helps me be brave when I leave the house. She is my support dog but I call her my lifeline!” Sarah Bess, Oregon

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“This is Freya. She consistently acts as the cushion to soften the blow of hardness in this world. Not only does she do this for me but also my mother. Whenever she is upset or having a hard time of it, I take Freya too her and just let her be, and she makes my mother feel loved and special.” - Arné Balassanian NYC

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“I spend 90% of my time and energy unofficially serving our Queer and trans communities...being Helpy, trying to catch the folks who fall between the cracks. I hear a lot of very hard stuff. I help people navigate really frustrating medical, housing, social service systems. I shelter homeless folks. I hold space and hold secret people's painful confidences. I hold my own fear, anger and deep concern for myself, a queer elder, at bay. My dog {and close friends' 'borrowed' dogs} is how I cope. "Dogs are better than people' is a motto/joke I often make. I revive myself and refresh my calm by walking with my dog.. sitting quietly with him and letting him, on occasion, care for ME.”  - Dana Hopkins, San Francisco

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“I'm a 66-year-old lesbian who is often in despair that so much of what we fought for and accomplished is being systematically attacked - from the murders invoked by nationalist ranting to the attempted erasure of trans people and that's just this week. Of course, I'm fighting back, but I know that it's possible that I'll be dead before the tide turns again. My little dog is not a comforter. She freaks out if I'm upset. But her daily and simple needs help me stay in the moment and have perspective” - Sandra Gail Lambert in Gainesville, FL.

***

 

Remember to hug your pets close and don’t forget to VOTE! VOTE! VOTE!!!

 

Sassafras Lowrey is a straight-edge queer punk who grew up to become the 2013 winner of the Lambda Literary Emerging Writer Award. Sassafras’ books—Lost Boi, A Little Queermas Carol, Roving Pack, Kicked Out and Leather Ever After—have been honored by organizations ranging from the National Leather Association to the American Library Association. Sassafras is a Certified Trick Dog Instructor who lives and writes in  Portland, Oregon with hir partner, and their menagerie of dogs and cats. Learn more at www.SassafrasLowrey.com

 

 

 

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