Patient and calm, she is lying on the couch beside me with a paw on my lap. She has no qualms about my depressed disposition or the tears on my cheeks.
We have been here since 7:30 a.m. when her dad left. It is approaching noon. It’s moments like this that I’m made aware of her unconditional acceptance of me and my major depressive disorder. I can’t imagine anyone being able to support me better than she does.
Waffle, known to the internet as Fluffy or Wafflenugget, came to us at eight weeks old.
It was Valentine’s Day. The temperature had dipped to negative 11°F. Despite the cold, I remember her joy. Her face lit up with glee as she played in the snow. She beckoned us to join her. With numb fingers and toes, we leapt in the snow, inspired by her.
That night, I wrote in my journal, “And at the bunny hops of joy, how could we resist? It seems she already knows how to bring light to darkness. My sweet Waffle, this little fluff. Only eight weeks on earth, and already my teacher. I cannot wait to learn optimism and gratitude from her in the midst of my depression.”
Her boundless enthusiasm and love for life is a beacon of hope for me. And now, as her paw starts gently punching my leg, I know it is time to move past my sorrow. It is time to rise and start the day.
Nevertheless, I roll over. I try to avoid the world a bit longer. An overwhelming sense of fear takes over at the thought of leaving the couch. The tears start to fall.
Waffle won’t have it. She has been patient for four hours, allowing me to process, feel, and cry. She knows it is time to work past the pain and hardship. It is time to grow.
Jumping off the couch with authority, Waffle butts her head into my body. Head-butt after head-butt, she prods my comforter-covered self.
With exasperation, I turn to her and say, “No baby, not now, not today. I just can’t.”
In doing so, I’ve given her what she wants — access to my face. She smothers me in love with licks and smooches and wipes away the tears. Keeping eye contact, she places her left paw on me once more. Her eyes say it all. It is time, and I give in. “Okay baby, you are right.”
I rise slowly, the weight of my heart and fatigue pressing on me. My first steps seem off-kilter — a true expression of the uncertainty inside.
But yet, squealing with glee, Waffle begins to hop. I place one foot in front of the other. Her tail starts to wag with the same amount of chaos as a helicopter blade. She begins to move in circles around me and ushers me toward the door. I crack a small smile at her support and encouragement. “Yes girl, we are getting up. I am getting up.”
In crusty, drool-stained pajamas, and despite the tears on my face, I throw on my Crocs, grab her leash, and leave the house.
We get in the car. I try to buckle my seat belt, but my hands fumble. Frustrated, I burst into tears. Waffle places her paw on my hand and nuzzles me in support. “I just can’t Waffy. I just can’t do it.”
She nuzzles me again and licks my cheek. I pause. “Okay, again. I’ll try.” And just like that, the seat belt buckles. We are off.
Fortunately, it’s a short drive. There’s no time for doubt to creep in. We get to the field (the same field we walk every day).
Waffle leaps onto the field. She is ecstatic. Although it is the same field, each day is a new adventure. I admire her enthusiasm.
Today, I can barely muster the strength to move. I slowly begin to walk our well-trodden path. Dark clouds appear in the sky, and I worry that a storm is upon us. Waffle does not seem to notice. She continues to dash about, sniffing around enthusiastically. Every few minutes, she stops to check up on me and push me forward.
An hour passes. We are back where we started within the loop, but somehow, it no longer seems the same. The sun, peeking out through the clouds, lights up the autumn sky. It is radiant.
I sit down to take it all in. Waffle sits on my lap. I rub her gently and find the words to thank her.
“Oh Waffy, I know you can’t hear me or understand, but I’m going to say it anyway: Thank you for bringing back the light to me, and to this gift of a world we call home.”
She gives me a little smooch on the cheek and a nuzzle. I like to think she understands.
We sit there for a while, basking in the light with gratitude. As I continue to take it in, I start to plan out the rest of our day. We will clean the house. She will follow me as I wipe the counters, do my dork dance with the vacuum, and wash the mountain of dishes in the sink. Then, I will take a shower. She will sit on the bathmat beside me, waiting for me to emerge and put on freshly laundered clothes for the first time all week. After that, I will cook a frittata, and we will sit on the floor and eat it together. Then, I will write.
It is likely I might start to cry again while doing these chores. But they won’t be tears of depression, they will be tears of gratitude for Waffle. With her constant love and companionship, she brings me back to the light time and time again.
Waffle accepts me for who I am; she loves me for my dark and my light, and that is how she helps with my major depressive disorder.