A Tribute to the Dog Who Saved Me

By Cecilia MacMillan, October 2020, Updated November 2020

Dogs save people all the time, and we hear about those heroes on the news. But we don’t often hear about the dogs who are everyday heroes—the dogs who save us from ourselves.

When I had nothing left, I still had my dog. In fact, at a total rock bottom in my life, all I had was my dog. As I struggled with mental-health issues and alcoholism, my black-and-white Pit Bull, Brayson, saved me on a daily basis.

Brayson’s name was meant to sound soft and approachable for fear of the stigma that Pit Bulls have had to contend with in recent years. And he was soft, friendly and loving. At my worst moments, throughout my struggles, I would promise Brayson that a house with a fenced-in backyard would come.

The first time Brayson and I moved, I had just broken up with a rebound boyfriend after a sad and bitter divorce. I was broken inside, feeling unworthy of love. I drank heavily to soothe the pain and to manage my constant depression and mood swings. This started years of bouncing from one rented room to another, begging people to accept my dog. We often had nowhere to go, and often faced being homeless.

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That was the least of my problems. The first time Brayson and I were separated was because I made a major suicide attempt. I was living with a close friend and knew Brayson would be safe and cared for there. While in the hospital, I was told I was bipolar and an alcoholic. That I would never get better if I didn’t get sober. I cried, unsure how I could go on living the way I had, not sure how to change, and afraid.

I continued to be crippled with depression. Brayson rested in the car while I attended 12-step meetings and tried to not drink. He stayed by my side when I struggled to get out of bed. He licked my too-long-unwashed arms and face, encouraging me to shower. Through tears, I told him of a future with that fenced-in backyard, and held on to him through the pain. Brayson attended every doctor appointment with me, and the staff came to know him well. By the end, my doctor prescribed Brayson as a medically needed support animal.

After four years of sobriety and a fight to be mentally well, I got better. I started a degree, again with Brayson by my side. Finally, seven years of struggle behind me, I was well again, and we got that house with the fenced-in backyard. A week after we moved in, Brayson stopped eating, and the vet confirmed my worst fear: Brayson, only seven years old, was dying of kidney failure. I would have to say good-bye to my best friend, the dog who saved my life.

There is nothing stronger than the loyalty of a dog. Brayson helped me heal and loved me when I couldn’t love myself. I believe he was so loyal that he waited until I was safe to die.

I’m still sober, and my mental health is stable. No one would ever think I had been as sick as I was. Brayson passed away almost four years ago. I have another dog now, Jack, a senior Pit Bull. Jack was 13 then I adopted him; it was my way of thanking Brayson for all he did for me. I show my gratitude by giving homes to dogs who risk being not wanted due to their age.

Yes, dogs save people—sometimes, dogs save us from ourselves.

Dedicated to my Sweet Baboo, Brayson Christopher.

Cecilia MacMillan is a Maine native and life-long dog-lover. She has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and works in a mental-health hospital. She enjoys writing, crafting, helping others and spending time with her fiancé and her dog, Jack.