By RIKKI DUBOIS
Some time ago, I suffered mental trauma that prevents me from going to work or even leaving the house. Thankfully, I have someone to support and take care of me. My partner has taken over some of the chores I used to do, holds me when I cry and makes sure I occasionally get out of the house for air. She is my confidant, my main supporter and the love of my life, but there are two others who live in my home who also do their part to take care of me. They are small, mostly black, furry and have four legs each. They are my two best friends.
The oldest is an eight-year-old, seven-pound Pomeranian named Tux (so named because when he was a puppy, he was all black with a white tuft on his chest that made it look like he was wearing a tuxedo.) When my partner got him, she understood purebred dogs need four names, so she called him Black Tux Franken Meister. He was almost a year old when I first started visiting my partner (at that time, my girlfriend). I’d lie on my stomach on the floor to play with him. He had a little pompom ball that came from a tuque or slipper, which he liked to play with. I would roll the ball across the living room floor; he would chase it and bring it back. We would repeat this over and over, until I got tired. He wouldn’t tire because he was a puppy and had a lot of energy, but being so small, running back and forth in the living room provided him with a lot of exercise.
Eventually, my partner and I moved in together and Tux adopted me. He came to see me when he wanted to go out. Since I worked at home, he would sleep under my desk during the day and in bed with me at night. He sat on me when we watched TV and I always made sure his bowls were full of food and water. Even today, if he wants fresh water, he looks at me then growls at his bowl to let me know I should change his water. With age, his snout has been turning white and he looks like a raccoon or red panda. He is the boss of the house but is still my Tux-puppy.
The other member of our household was born in May 2016 and joined our family on Remembrance Day of the same year. He is a terrier mix named Spirit. That was the name I chose before we met him; I wanted a mystical name. He has scruffy hair that is mostly black with some brindle colour mixed in. He is an intelligent and inquisitive little guy. We were able to break the bad habits he learned at his previous home very quickly and he listens well. He comes when we call him, unless there is a bunny in the yard he wants to play with or if he’s talking to his friend, Mr. Squirrel, who lives in the neighbour’s tree behind our house. He brings me toys so we can play tug-of-war and fetch. It’s funny to see him growl at a toy like it’s a true enemy and to watch him throw them up in the air and catch them. At almost two years old, he is now 13 pounds and full of energy. He likes to chase Tux in the yard and, sometimes, Tux will chase him. When I am feeling down, I pick him up and say I am lifting my Spirit. He is my Spirit dog.
These two do their part to take care of me. When my partner gets up for work, she puts them outside. Because of my illness, I am unable to get up in the morning, but by 8:00 a.m., they both jump up on the bed to wake me to put them out again. If I ignore them, Tux climbs up on me and licks my eyes. If I still ignore them, he takes his little paw and pokes me in the face. This usually makes me laugh and gets me out of bed. Spirit yawns very loudly in a way I’m sure can be heard in the other room. If my arm is outstretched, he sits on it so that my hand is in the right position to scratch his tummy. Sometimes he misses and puts his butt right in my hand; it’s not a pleasant feeling so that also gets me up.
Once I’m up and have finished breakfast, they come inside and go back to bed. Since I’m up already, I’ll go into my office to check my emails and do what needs to be done. If Spirit does not feel like sleeping, he brings me a toy so we can play while I’m sitting there. I’ll have one hand on my keyboard and the other on his toy, usually his duck or flamingo.
When I’m finished with my computer, I sit on our reclining couch to read. When I put my feet up, one of them (usually Spirit) sits between my legs and sleeps there while the other sleeps beside me. If I have to go to the bathroom, they follow me in to make sure I’m protected. Once I’m done, they stop at the pantry – which is next to the bathroom and stores the dog biscuits – to wait for a treat as compensation for looking after me so bravely.
Around lunch time, I eat the meal my partner so lovingly makes for me before she goes to work and then it’s time for a nap. Tux sleeps beside me on the bed, while Spirit sleeps on his favourite armchair in the living room. From this vantage point, he can see out both the living room and kitchen windows, into the back yard. He does this to see if Mr. Squirrel is there. I sleep for a couple hours, although I’m not the one who decides when nap time is done. Spirit wakes me when he’s ready to get up. He’ll jump on the bed, as if to say “Okay, mummy, enough sleep. I want to play now.” Tux is a miserable old guy who can sleep all day. If I ignore Spirit, he’ll jump on Tux who’ll start growling to be left alone. At this point, my sleep is broken so I get up.
They are good at making sure that I don’t spend my whole day in bed and are even very entertaining. Sometimes, when they are outside, I’ll see Tux sniffing at whatever he likes to sniff and see Spirit stalking him. When he’s about two feet away, Spirit will pounce on Tux and Tux will bark and chase him away. Spirit will run away a few feet, then come back for another round. When Tux stops running, Spirit will chase him around the yard. This all goes on for a good five minutes while I’m laughing from inside. This laughter does lighten my mood.
Besides being entertainers and protectors, they are very caring. When I’m sad, Tux climbs up on me and licks the tears away from my eyes. Sometimes his little tongue will get into my nose. Though it’s not a great feeling, it sure clears up the sinuses. If I’m sad in bed, he’ll cuddle right up and sleep against me to provide his loving touch. Spirit sleeps in the living room on his favourite chair, but if I’m sad while I’m sitting on the couch, he’ll sit right beside me and lean up against me. He allows me to hug him, kiss his little nose and nuzzle his head, smelling that nice doggy scent.
Silliness, cuddles and kisses are ways they help comfort me through my mental illness. It may not get rid of the illness, but it does temporarily make me feel better and helps me smile. That is why Tux and Spirit are my two best friends.
Rikki Dubois is a transgendered Winnipeg writer. She has two sons in university and is living with her partner, Charlene, and their black Pomeranian named Tux. Her book Muffy was Fluffy helps children understand what it means to be transgendered. Rikki is available to help those who have questions about gender dysphoria and other gender-related issues. Visit her website for contact information or for more examples of her written works.