How My Dog Is Getting Me Through the 2016 Presidential Election


The emotional ups and downs of the past few weeks have proven one thing to me: My dog is the best stress relief possible!

As I write this, it is the night after our 2016 presidential election. You’re reading it a week post-election, and my hope is that things have settled down by now. Even if they haven’t, I am confident that my 11-year-old German Shorthair Pointer mix, Riggins, is right by my side helping me cope!

For election night, I was invited to a friends “election viewing party.” The goal was to all sit together and collectively bite our nails. We knew it was going to be tough, and I contemplated if it was the right decision to bring Riggins with me.

Riggins the morning of election day resting up for his duty as support dog later that day. (Photo by Wendy Newell)
Riggins the morning of election day, resting up for his duty as support dog later. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

In his old age Riggins, has become less settled and is most comfortable at home. He is also very emotional and sucks up the human feelings around him like a sponge. If the room was stressed, he was sure to mirror that feeling. Still, he LOVES people, wants to be with me, and due to my hectic schedule hadn’t been out yet that day. It was a hard decision, but my selfish need for him to be with me won out so we jumped in the car and headed over to the “party.”

During our visit Riggins had three modes:

  1. Frantic laps — He wasn’t the only one. Some two-legged party goers were restlessly wandering around with him.
  2. Begging and whining — Let’s face it: He was just looking for a way to snag some snacks. He succeeded by diving into a friend’s plate of tacos when she wasn’t looking.
  3. Flirting with the boys — Riggins LOVES men. When asked why, I said it was because he is from a broken home, his father had left us, and Riggins needs doggie therapy. A friend and her boyfriend were snuggling in the corner, and Riggins did his best to make it a threesome by lying on top of my friend and forcing her boyfriend to pet him.
Riggins tries to instigate a threesome. (Photo by Wendy Newell)
Riggins tries to instigate a threesome. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

Even with the chaos of emotions in the room, Riggins managed to hold it together, better than some humans. Riggins knew he was needed and was going to be there for me and my fellow voters.

Riggins isn’t a therapy dog, and yet he has always been my security blanket and source of unconditional love and support. Here are just a few ways:

1. By just being there

Hanging out in his Veteran Day scarf. (Photo by Wendy Newell)
Hanging out in his Veterans Day scarf. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

A few years ago, I was asked by a good friend to go to a party with her. “No,” I said. “I don’t want to. I wouldn’t feel comfortable.” There were going to be people there from my “old life.” We all have those people. Friends of exes or past friends who didn’t make the cut. She started naming off the people I did want to see, and an idea came to me. I texted the host and asked if Riggins could come. He had dogs, and pups often came as guests to his gatherings. When I got the green light, I was in.

Riggins followed me around the party like my spirit animal and gave me strength. If I felt nervous or uncertain, I would pet his silky ears and furry thick neck to recenter myself.

2. With his cuddles

Riggins and I, we have seen good times and we have seen bad. The bad ones include a bout of depression, during which I would throw myself on my bed, sobbing. Riggins would jump right up next to me and cuddle. Spooning him, with my head snuggled in his fur, helped keep me going.

3. By being my protector

I dare you to come into my house without my permission. Riggins will not stand for it. As a single woman, having my dog be protective of me helps me feel safe.

4. Acting as my partner in crime

On a hike. Riggins +Wendy 4 Ever. (Photo by Wendy Newell)
On a hike. Riggins +Wendy 4 Ever. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

All I have to say is, “Riggins do you want to go for a ride?” and my pup will be up and by my side in seconds. We love doing things together. I became a hiker because I wanted to find an exercise the two of us could do together. If I was okay with destruction of nature, which I’m not, I’d carve “Riggins + Wendy 4 Ever” on a tree trunk!

5. With his predictable reactions

If I want Riggins’ attention, I just sit down with a snack and he will be right there with his eyes locked, probably drooling. When I want a reaction, I just rub the bottom of the inside of his ears and he will lean in and moan with happiness. Looking for some love, I get close and say, “give me a kiss,” and I’m rewarded with a lick. If you want to know where Riggins is, look for me and he won’t be too far away!

Nothing but love in this face! (Photo by Wendy Newell.)
Nothing but love in this face! (Photo by Wendy Newell.)

This election season has been tough, but we dog lovers had a secret weapon to get through it: our pups. Riggins doesn’t care which candidate you voted for. He manages to love everyone the same. Well, he loves me a little bit more than you, but that’s to be expected as I’m the one who feeds him. As we wrap up 2016 and move into a new year with a new president, let’s take a cue from our four-legged friends and try to be loving and supporting of each other!

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