Francesca Serritella: One week without my puppy, and my mental health is hanging by a dog hair

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Francesca Serritella and her dog, Pip

My dog is staying with my mom, and I’m lost without him.

I had to take several short trips this month, so I sent my dog, Pip, and cat, Mimi, to “summer camp” at my mom’s house for a few weeks.  This left me with time in between when I was at my place without my pets.

I say my “place,” because without my dog, it warrants only the most generic noun.  It’s as cold and impersonal as a hotel room, with worse housekeeping.

Ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone.

Seriously, no sunshine has touched me today, because without Pip, I have no reason to leave my apartment.

Cat-lovers: Don’t be mad I’m focusing on the dog here. I love my cat and miss her, too. A house is not a home until a cat is curled up somewhere. But she doesn’t affect my daily rhythms like my dog.

A cat is like an independent contractor for love.  They rent space in your home, and it’s a good arrangement for both of you, but what they do all day is their business.

The dog is my baby, he needs me — or so I thought.

I also thought I had a happy, healthy life that my dog fit into perfectly. It turns out my dog has the happy, healthy life that I piggyback off of completely.

One week without him, and my mental health is hanging by a dog hair.

My sunny personality is apparently the result of my extremely cute dog.  Without my doggy dopamine, I’m despondent.  I shuffle through the house like a rom-com heroine going through a breakup.  I become slovenly.  I don’t fix my hair or change out of my PJs.  Why bother?  Pip is literally the reason I wake up in the morning—to take him for a walk.

Making coffee, I catch a glimpse of his empty bowls, and my brain instantly goes to the place where he’s dead.  I could start crying right then and there, I’m that fragile.

“Alexa,” I say, “play ‘All by Myself.’”

I don’t have an Alexa.  I just want to feel less alone.

My chores fall by the wayside.  I don’t make my bed, because there’s no dog to starfish my pillow when I get up.  I don’t pick up my dirty laundry, because there’s no dog to chew my undies and socks.

Normally I clear the plates from my table and wash the dishes in the sink promptly.  I thought I did this because I’m a responsible adult.

But I realize now, pushing aside dirty lunch dishes to make room for dinner ones, that I clear them because otherwise Pip barks at them.

When I eventually run the dishwasher, the plates come out insufficiently clean, because I forgot to rinse them first.  Pip usually does that for me by licking them.

You’re welcome to eat at my house anytime.

Eating is a completely different experience without Pip.  Food has no taste if there’s no dog begging for it.

Puppy-dog eyes are my portion control.

For example, I eat only egg whites, because Pip and Mimi both like the yolks, which I cook up for them separately.  And Pip keeps my snacking on night-cheese in check, because I share half with him.

I’ve tried taking advantage of a life free from pet responsibilities.  I don’t have to walk him.

But I love walking him!  Our three walks provide the structure to my entire day.  Without them, the hours slide into one another, as I remain lonely and listless inside my apartment.

When I walk Pip, I’m surrounded by a force field of positivity.  I’m treated to a Disneyland version of New York City where everyone smiles and stops for a chat while they pet him.

When I go out alone, nobody talks to me.  I constantly have the sensation that I’m forgetting something, because my right hand is missing his leash.  I’m just another weirdo pretending to have something important happening on my phone.

Pip is a better social lubricant than booze.  Every night, I get to chitchat with my cute, single neighbor because we walk our dogs at the same time.  He always comments on it, like, “I think we have the same exact schedule at night.”

I smile.  “Yeah, it’s almost like we should be in bed together.”

I don’t say that out loud, but I think it, and it’s fun!

Picking up poop is a fair trade for the social life.

As a dog owner, I can’t easily spend the night at a boyfriend’s place.  But I don’t have a boyfriend right now.  And even when I did, I never wanted to go to his place.

Now I can stay out all night — which sounds horrible.  Please don’t make me, I’m 32 years old.

I can work all day at a coffee shop — which I tried and is horrible.  Constant noise coupled with an inability to leave your things long enough to go to the bathroom.

I can travel spontaneously.  Well, there’s only one place I want to go, and I already bought the train ticket.

To my mom’s house to pick up Pip.

(And Mimi.  I even miss the bites.)

Look for Lisa and Francesca’s latest humor collection, “I Need a Lifeguard Everywhere But the Pool,” and their upcoming “I See Life Through Rosé-Colored Glasses.” Also look for Lisa’s new #1 domestic thriller, “After Anna,” in stores now.  Francesca@francescaserritella.com.