Day 124: my emotional support kit

Tuesday morning.

D-R: I’m gonna look at a 2-bedroom apartment today. But it doesn’t allow pets so I don’t think it will work out.

Dr. F: But you don’t have a pet.

D-R: I know but I promised the children we are getting a cat and I can’t go back on it.


Dr. F: Do you know what an emotional support animal is? I could write you a letter for the landlord if you move somewhere that doesn’t allow pets….

D-R: [delighted] really?! You can do that? You would write me a letter! That would be amazing! I mean, because, obviously, I don’t need an emotional support animal [it is possible that I actually rolled my eyes while uttering the words “emotional support animal,”] but I did promise the children and I think it would be really good for them, so in a way it would be therapeutic, for them, and also I did promise them and so otherwise it rules out anywhere that doesn’t allow pets …

Dr. F [gently] actually ….. I think a cat could be really good for you.

D-R [genuinely surprised] for me?

Dr. F: yeah … to stroke, to cuddle … something warm and soft. I think it could really help you.

D-R: [pondering, suddenly distracted] huh. yeah, yeah it might be.

As someone who grew up with cats—I mean, not raised in the wild by cats, I mean we had pet cats throughout my childhood—I find the concept of an “emotional support cat” to be something of an oxymoron. That view doubtless reflects the fact that I was born into a household already occupied by a cat, Musty, who made no secret of the fact that he found the mere fact of my existence a complete and utter abomination.

Readers: that cat offered me zero emotional support. He did a nice line in withering disdain but that’s really not the same. And anyone who is familiar with cats knows that this is by no means anomalous cat behavior: they are, generally speaking, supercilious fuckers. Right? That is the very essence of catness is it not? “Cat” is merely another word for a feline shaped superego that sits all day on your sofa assessing you and finding you wanting. Don’t get me wrong, I feel honored to be the pitiful object of their feline contempt. But isn’t depending on a cat for emotional support like depending on a sloth for personal training?

ANYWAY. Dr. F. tells me to Google “emotional support animal” after our session, so I do, and immediately fall into a  duck-rabbit-hole-of-emotional-animal-support arcana.

There, I discover many interesting things.

An emotional support animal is a form of assistance animal. What is an assistance animal? Let me tell you! Here I cite from the Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Notice “FHEO-2013-01”: “An assistance animal is not a pet. It is an animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person’s disability.”

Now, an assistance animal is legally distinct from a service animal. Fascinatingly to me, service animals are always dogs with one AMAZING exception.

Allow me to quote, again from FHEO-2013-01: “Thus, trained dogs are the only species of animal that may qualify as service animals under the ADA (there is a separate provision regarding trained miniature horses).”


I was so intrigued by this I actually looked it up in the code of federal regulations cryptically footnoted in Notice FHEO-2013-01. FYI it’s 28 CFR Section 36.302.

The thing that’s so brilliant about this particular regulation is the slow build up. Under the heading “Service Animals,” there are 9 items. The first 8 of these are very boring, viz.,

  1. General
  2. Exceptions
  3. If an animal is properly excluded
  4. Animal under handler’s control
  5. Care or supervision
  6. Inquiries
  7. Access to areas of a public accommodation
  8. Surcharges

And then there’s #9

9. Miniature horses!!!!!!!!!! (exclamation points, mine).

Now I understand that there is probably a particular important service that miniature horses perform that I’m simply not aware of; I’m not, to be clear, mocking the idea that miniature horses might legitimately be service animals. I just love that while the CFR somewhat unnecessarily provides an example of how a dog might be used as a service animal (“e.g., the dog is observed guiding an individual who is blind or has low vision,”) nowhere is it explained in what capacity the trained miniature horse might be of service. To wit:

9. Miniature horses.

(i) A public accommodation shall make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures to permit the use of a miniature horse by an individual with a disability if the miniature horse has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks (my emphasis) for the benefit of the individual with a disability.

(ii) Assessment factors. In determining whether reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures can be made to allow a miniature horse into a specific facility, a public accommodation shall consider—

(A) The type, size, and weight of the miniature horse and whether the facility can accommodate these features;

(B) Whether the handler (my emphasis) has sufficient control of the miniature horse;

(C) Whether the miniature horse is housebroken; and

(D) Whether the miniature horse’s presence in a specific facility compromises legitimate safety requirements that are necessary for safe operation.

(iii) Other requirements. Sections 36.302(c)(3) through (c)(8), which apply to service animals, shall also apply to miniature horses.

But enough of the finer details, let me get right to the point.

I want a legally binding letter informing any and all future landlords and ladies that they must grant me an exception to any policies prohibiting pets so that I may have, not only the miniature horse I so obviously deserve, but also, and just as importantly, the miniature horse handler. Now obviously there is room for confusion here, so I want to be (or rather, I want Dr. F’s letter to be), explicit on this point: what we are requesting is a FULL-SIZED, nay, fairly strapping handler to handle the miniature horse. He should also be male, and of age, obvs. Swarthiness a plus. This is what we (I) have in mind, handler-wise; obviously the horse itself would be much smaller:


Bret McKenzie as Martin, the hot stable-boy, in Austenland

In the event that Dr. F finds herself unable to write such a letter for me, I suppose I will reluctantly settle for a cat.

What should its name be?

Emoticat, perhaps, just so it gets the idea? Emo for short?


Day 105: bay-leaves and equines


“What you want,” Dr F. mused, “is to be somebody’s bae.”

“Somebody’s bay,” I repeated, confused.

You might imagine, reader, that in mishearing “bae” as “bay” I wondered, “what, I want to be someone’s body of water? Someone’s blue lagoon?”

But you’d be wrong. In fact I thought, “what, I want to be someone’s smooth, chestnutty horse coat? Somebody’s fragrant tree?”

Like many girls, I went through a horse phase. Mine wasn’t a serious obsession, but I definitely put in a good number of hours flipping admiringly through picture books of various breeds; the word “bay” calls to mind the smooth glossy brown of fresh conkers.

(N.B. Do I maybe want to be someone’s conker? Not sure. It sounds slightly obscene and possibly violent.)

As for bay leaves, an enormous bay tree loomed outside the kitchen door in our back garden when I was growing up. My mum would send me out to pick bay leaves. She would hang them up in the kitchen to dry and use them in stews and casseroles.

The point, reader, is that the word “bay” triggered a lovely string of associations… chestnut-horses and horse-chestnuts and shiny, fragrant leaves.

“Ooh, yes,” I thought, “Ooh, yes, I DO want to be ALL those things!”

Meanwhile, Dr. F clarified: “Bae,” she repeated. “It stands for ‘before anyone else.’”

“Oh,” I said.

“It just made it into the Oxford dictionary,” she added.

I frowned skeptically.

The sense of being “before anyone else,” was, Dr. F. proposed, what I meant I lacked when I described myself as “lonely.” As she pointed out, I didn’t mean, simply, “I want company”; or, “I want to talk to a friend.” On the contrary, reaching out to others would sometimes exacerbate the “lonely” feeling by reminding me of my friends’ enmeshment in other, prior networks of love and responsibility.

When I got to campus after therapy I looked “bae” up. Except that I couldn’t remember how to spell it because I kept forgetting what the acronym was. I kept coming up with “be-all and end-all,” which seemed awfully sinister given its provenance and, also, a bit too bleaty as an acronym (baaea). [1]

When I finally remembered that bae supposedly stood for “before anyone else,” I looked it up in the OED. And what did I find? It was, according to the OED, the 16thc. spelling of “baa” as in, “the cry of a sheep or lamb; a bleat.”

“Pshaw!” I exclaimed. [2]

But I shouldn’t have judged so quickly. I was, it turned out, looking in the wrong Oxford dictionary. The word was not in the OED but rather in the upstart, which is much more permissive than the OED about the words it includes. defines bae as follows: “US informal A person’s boyfriend or girlfriend (often as a form of address): ‘I’m going to see my bae.’

Interestingly, however, it mentions nothing at all about it being an acronym, instead claiming it is simply an abbreviation of “baby” or “babe.”

The notion of being called “baby” or “babe” is quite as exotic to me as the idea of being someone’s “before anyone else.” Nonetheless, I prefer bae as an acronym. To wit:


I’ll be

your Bethe-Ansatz Equation,

your Bosomy Amorphous Entity,

your Beta-Amylase Enzyme,

your Baddest-Assed Evildoer,

your Bureau des Affaires Etrangères,

and your Bloody Anticlimactic Ending.

And what will you be for me?

Much love &c.,




[1] See Macbeth, 1.7.5.

[2] I didn’t really say “pshaw”; I actually said something like “puh,” in a disgusted tone; but it’s important to seize the opportunity to use the word pshaw whenever the occasion presents itself.


Day 104: or maybe I just need a cat

Can you chase loneliness away? Is it wrong to try? If I’m at home in the evening, whether by myself or with the children, I usually cry for some portion of the evening. I feel less sad if I’m out of the house. I told Dr. F recently that I felt fine as long as I didn’t go home. She gave me a long searching look when I said that.

I understood why; therapists want you to feel your feelings, not run away from them. But what if it’s not a feeling, per se; what if it is simply a condition? I was lonely when I was married and now I’m lonely living alone; maybe I was mistaken that my loneliness was situational; maybe I’m just a lonely creature; perhaps we all are.

I was reminded tonight, of a text exchange with a man I went out with, just once, not so long ago. He was a kind, gentle person. He also had two children. He was also separated from his former partner. We liked each other well enough but perhaps not quite well enough. A few days after our date I texted him to ask how his weekend had been; he answered lightly (seeing Star Wars, of course!) and enquired politely in return how mine was. For some reason I admitted that I’d spent most of it alone, and that I was lonely. What do you say when a relative stranger confesses that? I thought he’d say something banal like, “it gets better with time.” Instead what he texted back to me was, “I understand the loneliness. It never really seems to leave.”

Both his candor and his phrasing moved me. People leave; and people are left; but loneliness “never really seems to leave.” Do we, the lonely, take strange comfort in that? Is that, in fact, why it sticks around? Like a vampire, once you’ve invited it in, does loneliness stay for good? Or, no, this is a much better comparison, does loneliness stay for good like bleeding Samuel Taylor Coleridge? That rascal, he wrote in April 1816 that he was going to pass “a month at Highgate” at James Gillman’s house in order to convalesce from his laudanum addiction. And then he stayed for eighteen bloody years! Just lolling around on the sofa and dictating the Table Talk to his bleeding amanuensis! Eighteen bloody years. Until he died. He was just the worst.

All right, now I don’t remember where I was going with that, but I feel much better.