How My Guinea Pig Aided My Mental Health

She truly did rely completely on me, and there’s something about depression that makes you feel as though you’re an invisible entity. Even when my phone was silent, my calendar was empty, and I felt the most alone in the world, Annabelle saw me.

I adopted my guinea pig in May of 2013 when she was 2 months old. At the time, my anxiety was in full-swing, and it was recommended to me by a teacher of mine that I get a new pet. My parents were completely against it, and I was unable to talk them into letting me bring another animal into the house. (We already had a dog, and that was a struggle, too.) I knew I needed to find an animal that I could keep in my room, but it was important that the pet was furry and cuddly, too. My teacher recommended a guinea pig, and I started researching.

I’m not sure what happened for my parents to finally break. It could’ve been my constant flurry of Google photos of adorable guinea pigs being sent to their cellphones multiple times a day, my continuous talk about how badlyneeded a pet, or maybe it was simply because they believed that a pet could truly help me mentally. No matter what it was, I was given permission to adopt a guinea pig, and I immediately set out to purchase what I needed before bringing her home.

I had never owned a guinea pig before, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Nonetheless, hours after bringing home a cage and necessities to make a good home, I was walking in with a box that contained my new friend, Annabelle. (She was named long before the creepy horror movie came out, so don’t even talk to me about that.)

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Within the first week of her being home, I was growing tired of her running from me, and she bit into my thumb hard enough to draw blood. I was frustrated and thought that she would never be the pet I wanted and searched for to cuddle and love. Through my disappointment, I began to research and  quickly learned about their skittish nature and lack of eyesight, along with what signs meant I needed to back off.

Soon, our bond began to form. I made daily trips to her cage to deliver a tasty treat, and before long she was coming to the cage door, squeaking loudly when she heard me return home from a long day. Our progress continued to grow exponentially, and before long, we were talking in the morning, when I returned home, and spending our quality time together cuddling right before I went to bed. We had our routine and schedule, just like any parent with a child.

Many people joked with me, asking how my “rat” was or calling her a disgusting rodent (both of which she was not), but truthfully, my little girl did more for me than anyone even knows.

Annabelle and I spent a lot of time together. We sat on the floor during free-run time (puppy pads included), we had cuddle time at night before bed (my second mention of this, but it was my favorite), we went outside during the warmer months and ran around, and sometimes we even went to the pet store together.

On the outside, I look like an adult with a pet made for a 12-year-old, but truthfully, Annabelle added a lot to my life.

Pets are often a recommendation for those struggling with mental health, and it makes sense why. It’s a warm, live thing that provides you with unconditional love. They force you to get out of bed even on the toughest days, because they have to be taken care of and you’re the only one to do it. They come to learn who you are, what you like, and what you want. They aim to please (more often than not), and you can always count on them as someone to come home to.

I’ll never forget what my teacher said to me in high school the day I showed her pictures of my new friend. “She relies on you completely, Mollie. Never forget that.”

There wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t think about that. I never thought that a pet I knew nothing about could totally change the state of my mental health and how I feel, but now, after a little over 6 years together, I can confidently say that she added more than anyone will ever know, and each year brought something new and different for both of us.

Even most recently, on the days I struggled the most to get out of bed, Annabelle encouraged me to throw back the covers and put my two feet on the ground.

It wasn’t by some magic that I was “cured” of my depression, but there’s something about being responsible for another that allows you to find the motivation within that you thought you no longer had. If I didn’t get up to give her food, she would starve. If I didn’t give her water, she would dehydrate. If I didn’t get up to clean her cage, she would get sick.

She truly did rely completely on me, and there’s something about depression that makes you feel as though you’re an invisible entity. Even when my phone was silent, my calendar was empty, and I felt the most alone in the world, Annabelle saw me.

Maybe she was just a guinea pig. Maybe she was “only” a pet. But on the days I struggled most, she was still there. Even now, as I gaze at her photos on my walls, I ache to have her resting on my chest just one more time.

She was mine. She lived for me. She spent her life taking care of me.

Because that’s the thing about pets. They’re a part of your life, but you are their whole life.

In Loving Memory

My Best Friend, Annabelle

March 5, 2013 — April 10, 2019


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