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Pet Therapy- Part 2- Pet Mirroring

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When you are living with chronic pain, there are many days when you wake up and think: “Today is going to be one of those days.”  You know the day: you wake up feeling anxious, annoyed, cranky…the kind of day where you feel like if you have to answer one more question from anyone, you may go out of your mind?

Sometimes when I am having “one of those days,” I find that my usually well-behaved dog, Coco, is being naughty with a capital “N.”  Maybe she is whining, pulling on her leash when we walk, sulking.  Maybe she just won’t sit still and nothing I do or say calms her down.  It took me almost a year of having her before I realized that she was mirroring my energy. My dog is literally my mood mirror. Most days my moods affect her slightly, but on a really bad day, on “one of those days,” I think to myself: I must really be putting out bad energy because she is giving it right back to me.

Sometimes my moods swing like a monkey in a tree, and on the bad days, her moods seem to do the same. When I am sad, she seems sad with me. When I am cranky and agitated, she follows suit. So, if my dog is the mirror to my emotions, realistically speaking, I can use her as my mood barometer. Not sure how I am feeling? How is the dog acting? If she is having a naughty or sad day, I often realize that I have to put my own emotions in check.

Here is an animal that is not capable of complex thought, she can’t read or write, she has no opposable thumbs, and yet she is so human in her emotions that it baffles and amazes me.  This is just another incredible way this amazing creature is helping me. She doesn’t allow me to maintain a really bad mood because, not only is it detrimental to my health, it is detrimental to her emotional well-being as well.

I’d like to think that over the past year and a half that I have learned to control my moods a little better, but, even if that is not entirely true (or possible when you live with health problems/chronic pain), I have become very aware of my moods, thanks to (wo)man’s best friend.

Have you experienced something similar with your own pet?

Pet Therapy- Part 2- Pet Mirroring

Tracy Rydzy MSW, LSW

My name is Tracy and I am a licensed social worker. I was working as a Social Worker, when an emergency spinal surgery 2 years ago changed my life and my career. I live with chronic pain and, as a result, I have taken my social work and writing skills, and made them into this blog. This blog is a humorous, informative, no-holds barred honest look at life with chronic pain, depression and disability.”

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APA Reference
Rydzy MSW, T. (2013). Pet Therapy- Part 2- Pet Mirroring. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 29, 2020, from


Last updated: 5 Nov 2013
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