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How my dog changed my life during the pandemic  

By Jane Barcenas-Bisuña

During difficult times, we can turn to our dogs to lift our spirits. I am reprinting this account by Jane Barcenas-Bisuña, who was able to overcome her fear of dogs and now basks in the joy that they bring.

Being holed up at home in the middle of a pandemic―seemingly with little hope in sight—has aggravated my stress and anxiety.  I’ve tried different hobbies and diversions to remain sane. They’ve worked for a while but then I’d usually go back to being nervous and worried knowing how unstable the future is and how volatile life itself has become. In January this year, I decided to get a dog. That impulsive decision surprised everyone, including myself, as I used to be cynophobic (I can’t tell you how much embarrassment I had to endure for always asking friends to take away their dogs whenever I would visit their homes). I thought that overcoming my fear of dogs would be a great new project. The process would keep my mind occupied and once I succeed, it would be a great personal achievement―an item off my bucket list!  

After about three weeks of research and preparation, I got my cute Maltese dog. I named her Bettina, which means “God’s promise.” When she arrived home at 3 months old, everything was already prepared—food, a nice dog cage, a play pen, grooming stuff, vitamins and lots of toys. I made sure I got her everything she needed and more. However, I was the one who was totally unprepared. During the weeks that followed, I’d sit on the couch with my feet up as I was so scared the puppy would lick or bite my feet. I’d run away whenever she’d come near me. I would religiously prepare her food and get her bath ready, but I would never touch her. I’d feel so jealous when I see others cuddling her. Little by little, I started to be at ease with the fact that there’s a dog in the house. Finally, after one and a half months, I picked her up slowly and held her in my arms. It was awkward at first, but the feeling was amazing. It was life-changing! 

Bettina is now 10 months old. We are inseparable. She’s beside me when I work. She sleeps on my bed during the day. We take naps together. I carry her when I exercise. During nights when I couldn’t sleep, I just pick her up, hug her and even talk to her about anything. She’s more therapeutic than lavender. I feel calmer, more relaxed, and definitely happier. And because of Bettina, I also gained a couple of new friends! We’d compare notes about our dogs, share fun experiences and even send each other gifts! I realized that having a dog is certainly not just another exciting project. It feels more like I gave birth to another child. From being once cynophobic, I now sometimes feel that my life depends on my dog. Bettina gives me that different kind of love and affection not any human being could give―so genuinely soothing I feel my heart would burst in bliss and happiness. 

I can now attest to the fact that dogs provide the perfect therapy for someone experiencing stress and anxiety. Also, they elevate one’s oxytocin levels which help a lot in achieving a healthier heart. Bettina does not only bring me emotional comfort and security―she also gives me a new sense of purpose. I wake up every day looking forward to wonderful and fun moments with her. I dream of bringing her to places when things are back to normal. My idea of the future became more positive: I now have two beautiful children to live life with. Because Bettina is such a blessing to us, everyone in the family showers her with so much love and attention, which she truly deserves.  

Indeed, God gives us grace in ways we don’t expect. And for us, Bettina is God’s sweet, little promise—delivered perfectly on time. 

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