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For perhaps the first time in my life, this piece is not an ode to Mr. Darcy of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. While my Mr. Darcy was given the namesake because of my favorite novel, he is a hero in his own right. Nearly three years ago when I suddenly became very sick I thought that I would suddenly get better. However, that was far from the case. Fast forward through at least ten doctors, six hospitals, fifty-plus medications, six CT scans, two universities, more tests than I can count, and I am still sick. My journey is an ongoing one, it is wrought with fear, sadness, and a very deep loneliness.
"I need something to hold onto. To look forward to. To force me up out of bed for."
I begged my parents to let me get a puppy from the moment I realized my sickness wasn't going away so easily. It took barely finishing the semester at my current university due to my illness and three months of it getting worse for them to be convinced. With my own money and my research done their tender hearts gave in to my request. Thus, Mr. Darcy came running into our lives.
Mr. Darcy, or Darcy for short, makes everyone who knows him smile. He is nothing like the stoic character Elizabeth Bennet meets in Austen's novel. No—Darcy is a fast friend to all he comes in contact with. Gentle in nature, he aims to please and no matter what he always will lay on my head at bedtime. Comfort is in his blood which was everything I needed in a sweet little friend. King Charles Cavaliers were bred to warm the feet of kings and queens, something I knew meant he wanted to be close. Endometriosis and adenomyosis cramps can be soothed by heat and I knew I needed a dog that would like to lay in my lap. Thankfully, Mr. Darcy is more than happy to oblige and has already become the best travel partner.
For three weeks I suffered from a pain my specialist could only label as renal colic. It's excruciating to the point of two hospitalizations just for help managing it. With little food or water, it felt even darker than it has the three months of earlier chronic pain. Resting in bed, I would hear that soft little jingle of metal tags brushing together. Darcy leaped into my bed like a beacon of light across a stormy sea. There my little pal would rest atop my head, licking away tears, and staying by my side while I battled the monster inside of my body.
There is a special bond between man and dog. It isn't simply because they listen or are easy to train. Instead, it lies in the unconditional love within their hearts. My Darcy will never let you down and always feels guilty for his mistakes (he hides under armchairs). If you are sad, happy, sick, healthy, he is right there beside you. That is the wonder of a comfort animal for those like myself suffering from a chronic illness. The pain is just a side effect of a life-altering disease that can't be cured and hardly treated. Even as life changes, however, I have Mr. Darcy and he can always make me smile even on the most excruciating of days.
Someone once told me that when you are surviving it is impossible to dream. Mr. Darcy was a dream of mine that came true even when all others had died. Hope and joy are two of the most powerful tools in fighting chronic illness and pain. When doctors tell you there is no cure, you have to learn to live with the reality your life will never be what it once was. Darcy has helped me find hope and joy even when all else is falling apart and taking care of him has restored a sense of purpose sometimes lost in relying on the care of my family. For those of us who are truly sick having a comfort animal means the world of difference. Now I simply need to learn how to teach him to warm my feet and not my head.