When I was in my junior year of high school, my parents finally gave in to my incessant begging to get a puppy. They had just sold their business to spend more time with the family, so that meant they would have more time to take care of a pet, which was perfect for me and my brothers.

We had always wanted a dog to play with and to call our best friend. Little did I know that this dog would not only become my best friend but my loyal companion when times got tough with my depression and anxiety.

My dog is not a certified therapy dog, but he could be. When I cry, he jumps into my lap and licks away my tears. When I’m sad, but not crying, he has a way of sensing that something is wrong, and he rests his paw on my leg, or on my arm and whimpers. When I feel anxious, he lays in bed with me and helps me feel warm and supported.

Dogs have a way of sensing human emotion, and they always have a way of cheering you up even when you don’t know you need it.

When I was a teenager, I had a way of making things tense in the house. I was moody and sometimes my anger was explosive. After a while, my dog knew just how to calm everyone down and lighten the mood. Sometimes, if an argument started to escalate, he would jump on top of one of us and start to whine, lick our faces until we stop talking and start laughing, and suddenly everything is okay again.

The first time I was hospitalized, I was terrified. It was a completely new experience. I refused to leave my assigned room for group therapy sessions, and even for meals. But on one of the last days, I heard that they were bringing therapy dogs in. My entire mood lifted and I flew out of my room instantly upon seeing the first dog pass my door.

The second time I saw therapy dogs, was in a college setting. My college had a tradition of bringing therapy dogs into the main building on campus for midterms and finals weeks as a way to comfort and calm the tense, stressed-out students. It worked.

Therapy dogs aren’t just for group settings. They can be great for individuals, too. You can get your own dog registered as a therapy dog. People with depression and anxiety can use therapy dogs, and therapy dogs are great companions for people with epilepsy and autism as well.

Dogs are instantly comforting, warm and loving. They don’t judge, they just accept you, and share all of the love they have to give.