One of the greatest love stories ever told? It is about the love between a spoonie and their animal companion. Specifically for me, it is between myself and a ferret named Sneaky Weasel. Yes, his name is Sneaky Weasel — Sneaks for short. As many can attest, animal affection is so beneficial when fighting a chronic illness. Mine just so happens to comes in the form of a fluffy, big-butted weasel, with a passion for toy donuts.
Four years ago, my boyfriend and I became the proud parents of this little ferret. We welcomed him into our home, and quickly into our hearts (and everything else he could squeeze through). He began to change the way we thought, felt, and interacted with each other. Importantly, he changed how I was able to handle the highs and lows of living with constant pain.
It is no secret that those of us who suffer with any long term illness will also experience depression and anxiety. It's so easy to slip into these mental states when thinking about our pain, about the uncertainty of our health and the barriers it has created in our lives. My darkest moments are when I begin to focus on the incurability of what I have, how I may always feel this way, no end in sight. One night last year, I cried for hours in my dark bedroom thinking about this. I was inconsolable. My boyfriend, genius that he is, fetched Sneaks from his sleeping place and placed him on my chest. Sneaks stood perfectly still (uncharacteristic of ferrets). He let me hold him until I calmed down, licking the tears from my face.
I always feel better when Sneaks is nearby, but that night I knew he had become an essential part of my well being. I swear that since then something has changed between us. He senses when I'm having a flare, or am hitting a rough patch emotionally. When I lie in bed, groaning in pain, he hops right on up and gets all up in my face, as if to say "you okay ma?"
Having to take care of Sneaks — clean his litter box, give him fresh food and water, make sure he gets plenty of play time — motivates me to take care of myself. Getting out of bed each morning is so tough, but with cheerful Sneaks looking on, waiting for me to let him out of his habitat, I have extra motivation to start my day.
I've had a connection to animals ever since I was a little girl. Being an only child until the age of thirteen meant that I had a lot of nonhuman siblings. From Yorkshire Terriers to a New York Red Rooster to a terrarium of snails, I swore I could talk to the animals, and heard them speak back to me. No matter how sick or alone I was feeling, I always knew I had the companionship of my pets.
My love for all animals has only grown as I've gotten older. Now, more than ever, I know it is essential to my health both mentally and physically to coexist with other creatures. I have become a vegetarian for many reasons, the largest being out of respect for animals. I am so grateful for how they help me to heal a little more each day.