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Pet Ways to Ease Stress
with Jessica Loftus, Ph.D. & Jack Murray

When Muffy Comforted me Through my Bipolar Breakdown

When I started believing that evil agents were hacking into my cell phone and breaking into my home, my little dog Muffy sensed that something was wrong with me.  Early in the throes of my psychotic episode, Muffy eased my stress.

The Stress of Hospitalization

When my condition worsened, not even her antics could calm me.  I thought about that sweet little dog as I tried to escape my inevitable fate of going into the hospital.

When I was hospitalized for a week after suffering a nervous breakdown, Muffy filled my thoughts. I missed Muffy and my wife so much, it hurt.  Visits and phone calls from my wife were my only consolation. When I asked about Muffy, my wife tearfully responded that the little dog often sat in my favorite chair. There she sighed, looked sad, wondering where I was and whether I would ever return

When I walked the hallways of the psych ward fearing for my safety, Muffy’s lingering image soothed me.

The Comfort of Returning Home

When my wife drove me home from the hospital, Muffy was waiting for me at the door. Excited to see me, she greeted me at and covered my face with wet kisses as I held her. Whimpering, she squirmed in my arms, reaching to lick my face as I pulled her away and set her back on the floor. She jumped up on my legs, clearly wanting me to pick her up again.

When I settled down in my home with my wife, we were touched by her effusive affection. Darting to the cupboard, I grabbed Muffy a dog biscuit, which she caught in her mouth and gratefully devoured. She sat in the kitchen and kept careful watch over me as my wife and I put away the groceries we had picked up on the way home from the hospital. She happily ate the few scraps from the table that I fed her during dinner.  I slept peacefully that night, the first time after seven nights of sleepless distress in the hospital.

The Stress of Exile

When I received only a few extremely brief phone calls over the next few days, weeks and months, Muffy perked up her ears to listen. This made me feel valued and needed.

When I had to quit my job because I could no longer handle it, Muffy loyally stood by my side. She could tell I felt rejected when community leaders ignored my requests to volunteer for their groups or events. She did whatever she could to cheer me up.

When I lost most of my friends, Muffy extended her paw in friendship to me.

When I lost my standing in my community because of the stigma of mental illness, Muffy came a’running every time I called her and sat on command.

When I endured obligatory social outings where people ignored me, Muffy sat up and begged when I returned home.

The Stress of Rejection

When my psychiatrist kicked me to the curb because I wasn’t recovering quickly enough, Muffy played fetch with me with more enthusiasm than ever. She especially loved to run after a stuffed panda bear and play tug-of-war after she retrieved it.

When my therapist abandoned me because she was uncomfortable with my losses, Muffy rested her chin on my thigh and looked sympathetically at me.

When I suffered repeated job rejections because of my lingering mental-health symptoms, Muffy cheered me up with her comedy routines.  My favorite was when she rolled over on her back and played dead, all four paws pointing up in the air.

The Ongoing Comfort

When I watch TV in the evening, Muffy curls in my lap. I scratch her gently behind her soft, furry ears as she looks at me with her big, brown eyes. She sighs contentedly, as she cuddles with me. Finally safe at home with her and my wife, I coo “Good doggie.” But she is not always such a “good doggie”, especially when I take her for a walks to do her business. She growls and barks ferociously at any dog she happens to see, straining at the leash.  She can express some of the anger that I cannot.

When I fall asleep, Muffy lays peacefully at our feet as all three of us sleep soundly in our bed. I hear her dog tags jingle softly a few times when any noise from outside that no human could hear alerts her to raise her head and turn toward the window. She is a natural-born watchdog.

When I think back on my entire ordeal and ongoing recovery, Muffy serves as loyal supporter, confident, pet therapist, stress reliever and source of inspiration.  More than ever, she remains this man’s best friend.


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Story is told with permission.

When Muffy Comforted me Through my Bipolar Breakdown

Jessica Loftus

Jessica Loftus has worked as a licensed clinical psychologist and national certified career counselor for more than 20 years. She currently offers counseling sessions via telehealth in Illinois. Her website,, outlines steps for making a career decision. details. See her retired blog, "Pet Ways to Ease Stress,"

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APA Reference
Loftus, J. (2018). When Muffy Comforted me Through my Bipolar Breakdown. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 1, 2020, from


Last updated: 26 Aug 2018
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