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In this day and age, mental health is no longer taboo for people of color, thanks to social media connecting people to others who have been bold enough to share their experiences. It is also now common to seek alternative ways to get support and help.

Alternative healing and self-help have always been go-to, but sometimes you have to think out of the box, especially when you are faced with new challenges.

I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's, not a well known autoimmune disease or one that is deemed worthy enough for sympathy from others. With my family's lack of knowledge on the subject, I wasn’t getting the love I needed, so I thought a pet would feel the void.

I went on Craigslist, then to a dog pound, then went back on Craigslist to find my emotional support pet. At that time I wasn’t even sure how to register it as an ESA (Emotional Support Animal) or how to see a doctor to get a letter, but I knew I needed a companion.

It turned out to be the best decision of my life. Now under quarantine, I need him now more than ever. 

Here are three reasons why everyone should get one:

1. Dogs are not just "man’s" best friend.

Let me back up to about six or so years go when I got a Shih Tzu — she was a bitch, literally and figuratively. So this time around I wasn’t too keen on dogs. I knew I needed to revisit having a dog for a companion because my experiences with rabbits and cats were unfulfilling. All they did was look cute and scratch me from time to time.

I thought maybe the previous pets I had were just poor luck of a choice, because clearly people have pets they love. Well, I found a Shih Tzu/Maltese mix, but wasn’t sure it was going to work because peeing and pooping in the house was not going to be tolerated. But I lucked up, because my puppy, affectionately named Mahalo (which means "an expression of gratitude" in Hawaiian) came trained. He was also indeed loving and lovable, which made him a keeper.

I remember getting out of my bed and almost stepping on him because he was waiting for me on the side. It was the first time I felt loved by an animal. In fact, I cried. (I am crying now as I write this.)

2. You will never feel alone again.

Last year when I got Mahalo, I quickly figured out how to make him an emotional support animal, and because of that he flies with me for free and can live in my apartment for free — even if the apartment doesn't allow pets. So now I am never alone.

Being quarantined can feel lonely and depressing. Working from home can feel lonely and, yes, also depressing. But having the presence of something cute, cuddly, fun and lovable takes any feeling of aloneness and depression away.

Also, being needed by something — something wanting my company — and to have something to make happy has been fulfilling. Belonging is a human need and to have a dog that belongs to you fulfills that.

Mahalo is happy when I return home, he is happy when he gets to come with me anywhere, he is happy if he gets to play and he is happy when I give him treats. And seeing him happy makes me happy.

3. You have a reason to get out of the house.

As an empath and introvert that works from home, living a quarantined life can be the norm. Now in lockdown here in LA, it can get scary leaving the house, but since he is trained so well he won’t poop or pee indoors. But having him makes me get out of the house, which is healthy for us to do no matter what is happening. (With the exception of things getting worse, or an apocalypse.)

Walking daily should be a part of everyone's health regimen, and having a dog makes you not slack on that. For one they guilt the f**k out of you, and second, you don’t want accidents. So both are great motivators.

With the COVID-19 lockdown happening, the cops also can’t say anything to you about why you’re out of the house, as our only list of things to do is business, food or hospital.

Anyway, my ESA is helping me get through this. 

I didn’t grow up with a pet nor is it a cultural norm for me to have one, but I now see why people should have them. Mahalo is something special and something I wish for everyone to have and experience.

Cheers to your mental health. Having an ESA can't solve everything, but it can make it easier if you have the right one.