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5 Ways My Emotional Support Animal has Improved My Mental Health

Updated: Aug 25, 2020

Many people register their pets as emotional support animals to help them cope with daily life. Emotional support animals are different from service animals in that they don't require special training or aid in physical disabilities. Talk to your therapist or psychiatrist if you think registering your pet as an ESA is right for you!

Meet My Emotional Support Animal: Morty

emotional support animal

Along with the emotional benefits, emotional support animals also can fly on planes for free, and under the FHA (Fair Housing Act) can live in "no pets" housing (with certification, a recommendation letter, and an understanding landlord). I don't recommend buying a pet for emotional support unless you're able to spend time, money, and effort taking care of it. For me, however, the time, money, and effort I've given to my puppy have yielded wonderful results (and some not so wonderful). Scroll to the bottom of the post to see which ESA package I bought from a trusted ESA site and Morty's adorable emotional support animal ID card!

Morty has been my constant companion for a little over a year. As friends, relationships, and "good times" come and go, he has (and always will be) there for me. If you don't know who I am (which is understandable, the internet is a big place) you can learn a little bit about me here, or visit my Instagram.

Emotional support animal, rottweiler mix golden retriever

I got Morty unexpectedly when my roommate sent me a picture holding the cutest puppy I had ever seen. Due to a terrible time in my life, and an even worse period of mental health, I struggled with depression, manic symptoms, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, and disassociation. An unfortunate event had led me to the hospital just a week before I got Morty, and if he didn't show up in my life when he did, I have no idea how my mental health would have progressed.

My roommate and I named him Morty after the TV show, Rick and Morty. He's a rottweiler mix golden retriever and is now almost 4 years old. I can't contribute all my mental health improvements to him, and can probably even link some of my anxiety to Morty and his destructive habits, but Morty has kept me sane and productive when I felt like those were previously unattainable.

5 Ways My Emotional Support Animal has Improved My Mental Health

1. My dog comforts and distracts me when my emotions spiral out of control.

In the past and still, on occasion, I have trouble regulating my emotional responses during difficult times. I used to drive off to a secluded area far away from my home, sometimes a beach, sometimes a forest, and cry for hours (usually at night). This isn't the healthiest coping method, and it's also not very safe to be driving while extremely emotional, or park at a secluded forest when it's dark.

Emotional support animal, rottweiler mix golden retriever

When these moments arise and I want to seclude myself and cry for hours; I can't. To clarify, I still could if I wanted to, but I have a puppy at home to care for. He needs time, love, and attention, and I know if I go home instead of driving away, my dog will be there to greet me with a smile and no judgment.

These moments with my dog are special because he knows something is wrong and will lay with me on the floor, on the couch, or sit on my lap even if he thinks I'm upset. Sometimes he will try to distract me with playing or being goofy and my mind is distracted. This stops the crying within (usually) half of an hour, instead of 2 hours by myself in a dark place.

2. My understanding of responsibility and patience has expanded since I got an ESA.

Another word of caution, don't get a dog (especially a puppy) with the hopes of becoming more responsible. You most likely will, but the path is tough and your dog may suffer because of it. Before getting Morty, I was responsible for school, work, and volunteering, but little did I know my responsibility was nowhere near my maximum potential.

Managing homework and studying, working part-time (sometimes full-time), and volunteering was nothing compared to raising a rambunctious, young, and energetic puppy. My responsibilities included (and still include) the following:

  • Making sure my dog isn't alone for too long

  • Giving him food each morning and night (sometimes throughout the day when he was younger)

  • Changing or refilling his water when it gets too low

  • Giving him enough exercise each day so he doesn't chew up the couch

  • Sewing together the couch

  • Training him to not play-bite, jump up, etc.

  • Getting him used to other people and dogs

  • Giving him appropriate praise or punishment for his behavior

  • Giving him baths when he needs them

  • Taking care of his hygiene, like trimming his nails, brushing his fur, guarding against fleas, putting powder in his ears, and trying to freshen his breath (keyword: trying)

  • Taking him to the doctor for appointments and emergencies (and paying for those appointments)

  • And more...

Emotional support animal, rottweiler mix golden retriever

This isn't to scare everyone from getting a dog or ESA, but I do want to clarify dogs are a lot of responsibility, something I thought I had covered until he came along. I'm extremely grateful for the lessons I've learned, the mental and physical strength I've gained, and the patience I've had to practice.

The responsibility and patience I've developed from my dog have spread to all aspects of my life. I took on more responsibility at work and was promoted because of it, I graduated with my Associate's degree in Psychology and now have my Bachelor's of Science in Psychology, and I run a successful website by myself. I can't contribute all my successes to Morty, but he's taught me a lot in the process and prepared me for the challenges of "real life."

3. Aside from taking care of Morty, my dog has also taught me how to take care of myself.

I constantly encourage others to participate in self-care on Rose-Minded, however, I used to never take care of myself. Taking care of myself seemed frivolous, time-consuming, and selfish, even in the smallest ways. Depression took its toll on my lifestyle; I wouldn't get off the couch (or even the floor) for hours because I didn't see the point. My eating habits were crazy, I either ate too much at once or didn't eat for long periods at a time. Oftentimes, if I didn't have work or school, I would stay inside all day and go to bed in the same clothes I woke up in (ew, lol). My bad, sad, or 'numb' moods would last days at a time and I had no ambition to change anything in my life.

Self-care doesn't have to be extravagant; self-care can simply be taking a walk around the neighborhood, brushing your teeth, or setting aside 10 minutes to meditate or focus on self-reflection. These options are all free! My self-care lacked some of the basic hygienic routines (yes, it's embarrassing but I'm better now!) and I'd put off brushing my hair, showering, brushing my teeth, eating, and drinking water until I was at my breaking point. When you have to take care of another life, while trying to make it an enjoyable life, self-care is unavoidable.

My dog taught me that taking care of myself is a necessary part of taking care of him. I can't make his life the best it can be if I'm not concerned about my own quality of living. I have to get out of bed in the morning at a reasonable time to take care of Morty, in turn making sure I don't lay around all day. I have to go outside, get exercise, breathe fresh air, and soak up the sun when I take Morty to get exercise (something I wouldn't have chosen to do on my own).

4. Having a dog has softened my heart.

Before getting Morty, my life seemed impossible to live without creating protective barriers around my heart and mind. I was untrustworthy of everyone, didn't let people in beyond a superficial level, and had a hard time opening up about my feelings. I wouldn't say I'm a trusting person now; trust is still something I have a hard time with. However, now I can gather the courage to open up to someone when I need to or express myself when previously I had no motivation to do so.

Every day I have a smiling, goofy puppy ready to greet me at any moment I walk into the room. I say "I love you" probably 100 times a day, when before I wasn't sure if I could feel "real love" anymore. My dog has become a child and even a friend, and my mushy, gooey heart sometimes is so overflowing with love for him I don't know how it's possible.

5. Since getting a dog, I no longer isolate myself.

During my bad times, I would often isolate myself (see #1) and lose friends in the process. I'd stay inside mainly, and only get minimal interaction with others from school or work. Because I have to take my dog on walks, to the dog park, to the skate park, around town, etc., I see and talk to a lot of people. Having a dog means dog-lovers are going to stop you everywhere, owners will ask questions and tell you about their dogs, and strangers will stop in the middle of a busy sidewalk to pet your hyper-friendly dog.

rottweiler mix golden retriever puppy

Before this would have terrified me; now, talking to people is something I look forward to and enjoy every day. I smile at others on the sidewalk and make better eye contact when speaking to people. Again, this is also due to my mental health stabilizing and myself maturing over time, but having a dog has pulled me out of my isolating funk and shown me how positive and loving people can be.

I do try to stay at home with Morty often because he deserves my time and attention and not to be left alone for too long. This can sometimes prevent me from going out or spending long periods of time at other places, but I don't mind at all. Again, I've had some scary life experiences that make me thankful to stay at home with a loving dog. I'm happier, more social, more active, and more loving since getting a dog, and I'm so thankful he is my emotional support animal.


Thinking about getting your dog (cat, lizard, etc.) ESA registered to be your personal emotional support animal?

Check out the website I got my dog, Morty, registered at to be my ESA. You do have to pay for the certificate, but it's worth it with the cute ID card and certificate you get, along with the ESA benefits (housing & flying)! I'm an affiliate member of this website and also a personal consumer of their services and products, so I'm a fond supporter of the site and their cause.

Below is the package I think is the best deal, however you can check out the other services, products, and packages on their website and find the one that works best for you & your furry/scaly/feathery friend.


Thanks for reading! Morty and I will respond to any/all questions, comments, etc. you have so leave them in the comments section below.

Share this post if Morty has stolen your heart and/or just made you smile!

5 ways my emotional support animal has improved my mental health


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