My Comfort Animal

Dear Friend,

You ask about my experience with a comfort animal.

As you’ll recall, there was a lot of talk around the place during our brief institutionalization about the value of comfort animals. Frankly, I was inclined to see it as propaganda, aimed at making us believe there was a better life out there. Could a connection to another species really make such a difference in the quality of one’s life?

But, in spite of my misgivings, I went for it. Everyone said it was important to choose wisely, to go for one that was calm, devoted, apparently ready for attachment. I was surprised by the one I fell for. I’d been thinking small, dark and long-haired, but he was a big guy with salt and pepper hair, close-cropped. How often the objects of our affection are different than we expect.

I have to admit, he’s particularly adept at managing my anxiety. I used to be terrified of riding in the car, but with him by my side, I’m adjusting. At first, we had to stop at the Diary Queen for vanilla ice cream cones every time we went for a ride, but now he has me down to stopping only once a week or so.

I did have to spend a lot of time training him. In the beginning, he seemed barely aware of the continuous attempts to breach our defenses. Now he gets it. “It’s only the UPS guy,” he will say. “Or, it’s Cousin Roy, dropping off the beer.” The explanations don’t do much for me, but since these phrases are often accompanied by a treat and a belly rub, I let them go.

And, he’s great at handling the worst of my triggers, continuous loud noises. He puts me in the heavy vest and murmurs, “It’s only thunder,” or “It’s only fireworks.” I don’t know what comfort it’s supposed to provide, knowing whether the world ends by a natural cataclysm or one that is self-inflicted, but the distinction seems to make him feel better, so I calm down, too.

Doctors visits were a nightmare for me, but with him there, I can manage, though last time he let the doctor do something very, very unmentionable, for which I haven’t quite forgiven either of them.

But in general, we get on well. We both love pizza, popcorn, and lying on the couch watching TV.  Each of us pushes the other to make sure we get plenty of sunshine and exercise, though he can be a little lazy. We work in some time to socialize with our own species, too.

In sum, I’d say, if you have a chance to get yourself one of these loving, generous creatures, you should go for it. Your life will only improve.

Yours Very Sincerely,


About Barbara Ross

Barbara Ross is the author of the Maine Clambake Mysteries. Her books have been nominated for multiple Agatha Awards for Best Contemporary Novel and have won the Maine Literary Award for Crime Fiction. She lives in Portland, Maine. Readers can visit her website at
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8 Responses to My Comfort Animal

  1. This is so sweet. I think I’m in love with dear Spot. Now I need to go hug my dogs and take them for an ice cream.

  2. Lea Wait says:

    Love this! (I’ll admit I thought at first the comfort animal’s name was Bill …..)

  3. hpl04943 says:


  4. I don’t like to start the day crying, Barb, but these were sweet tears.

  5. Cheryl Worcester says:

    Aw, so sweet! I’m in love with Spot. Now I need to take my little Lacy out for a ride and a burger.

  6. Charlene Fox Clemons says:

    Wonderful! There is nothing like a rescue dog (or cat or rabbit or whatever your animal of choice is).

  7. Sandra Neily says:

    That was so wonderful, Barb. Made me run right down to visit my rescue dog (who rescued me from the sadness of loosing 2 dear pets) and hug her, although she was watching “squirrel TV” in front of the deck sliders and had to remind me, “This is my special time. Don’t you have some typing to do?” In any case, it’s been so moving to see her come to love and trust a human being. Thank you for sharing Spot!

  8. Very cute. And yes, pets can be a big blessing. Our comfort kitty got out of the house one snowy night when a guest left via our garage, and we didn’t notice for a couple of hours as last we saw, she was asleep under the dining room table. Well, let’s just say, the next few weeks of trying to find our girl made life unbearable and so very sad. We did everything we could, hanging posters, contacting neighbors on streets adjacent to our development, etc. etc. We posted on the lost and found pets of MA and beyond, and my family combed the woods for over six weeks until snow was too deep to do this anymore. We are still beyond sad and upset that this happened, and honestly, it has done a lot to make me, especially, very well aware of how much our sweet Roxie enhanced our lives for a year and a half. To make matters worse, we began our caretaking only while our daughter took in two feral cats to train, and that never happened so she kept the two strays trying to get them tamed, and we kept Roxie during this time so we felt she was ours forever by this time. Not knowing what her fate is/was, was the hardest thing of all. Neither of us is ready to get another animal yet as we are still holding out hope that even with 7 months having gone by since she got out into the freezing night, that MAYBE she will be returned to us somehow. In life there is always hope I guess, and that is why we still cling to the fact that we may find her someday, and the sooner the better. But realistically, we know that is most likely never going to happen. We sure miss our comfort kitty and somehow hope she knows this. (insert sad faces here.).<3

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