Home Podcast: Can Schizophrenics and Bipolars be Good Pet Owners?

Podcast: Can Schizophrenics and Bipolars be Good Pet Owners?

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Podcast: Can Schizophrenics and Bipolars be Good Pet Owners?

April 16, 2024

In today’s episode, Gabe and Michelle talk about the positive impact their dogs, Peppy and Paisley, have on their mental health, debunking misconceptions that people with mental illness cannot be good pet owners.

While Gabe’s dog offers comfort during his bouts of loneliness, Michelle’s dog provides a routine and socialization, though she faces criticism due to the stigma of schizophrenia. 

Join us as we share more of the advantages of pet ownership on mental illness.

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About the Hosts of A Bipolar, A Schizophrenic, and a Podcast

gabe howardGabe Howard is a professional speaker, writer, and activist living with bipolar and anxiety disorders. Diagnosed in 2003, he has made it his mission to put a human face on mental illness.

He’s the author of Mental Illness is an Asshole and Other Observations and a popular podcast host. Learn more at gabehoward.com.

michelle hammerMichelle Hammer is a mental health advocate and the founder of the mental health clothing and lifestyle brand Schizophrenic.NYC. She is known for her efforts to raise awareness and reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues, particularly schizophrenia. She is an NYC native featured in the WebMD documentary Voices, which was nominated for a Tribeca X Award at the Tribeca Film Festival. She has also been featured in media outlets such as ABC, NBC, and CBS. You can find Michelle’s newest Home and Living line at Home.Schizophrenic.NYC where she brings her artwork into practical home essentials.

Transcript for A Bipolar, A Schizophrenic, And A Podcast: Can schizophrenics and bipolars be good pet owners?

Announcer: So, what did the bipolar say to the schizophrenic? You’re in the right place to find out. . .   


Gabe: Hey everybody, thanks for listening to the podcast. My name is Gabe Howard and I’m bipolar.


Michelle: And I’m Michelle Hammer and I’m schizophrenic.


Gabe: And we are so excited to be here for another season because of all the great support of people like you. We read that list at the end of the episode, but if you want to make sure that we can keep going, please visit BSP.show/support. There’s lots of ways to support us. Lots of cool swag that you can get. There’s just there’s just so much stuff there now. Michelle you have a dog?


Michelle: I have a dog, Gabe. A real great dog.


Gabe: What kind of dog do you have?


Michelle: I rescued the dog, so I’m not entirely sure we did one of those DNA tests, but we don’t think it was really accurate. It’s some sort of Chihuahua type mix with something Doberman mixed with a cocker spaniel. She’s 16 pounds of love and joy and beautifulness and cuteness. And I love her so much. What kind of dog do you have, Gabe?


Gabe: I have a mini schnauzer. He is 25 pounds of anxious and an awesome. He barks a lot. He is a really, really good dog and I love him a lot. And I got to say, I think you are his dog friend.


Michelle: I am his dog friend. He’s my friend. I call him on the phone all the time.


Gabe: I knew Peppy was texting someone.


Michelle: Yeah, yeah, it was me. We text, like, every day.


Gabe: How long have you had your dog Michelle?


Michelle: I have had my dog for a maybe like a year and a half.


Gabe: Oh, wow. You’re kind of a new dog mommy.


Michelle: Uh-huh.


Gabe: I have had my dog for eight years now. Going, going, going on eight. He’s now. How old was your dog when you got her?


Michelle: Three months.


Gabe: Three. Okay. Peppy was six weeks old when I got. Well, that’s a good point. We haven’t introduced her. What’s your dog’s name?


Michelle: My dog’s name is Paisley.


Gabe: Are. You copied me? I got my dog first and my dog is named Peppy. So I had a dog and my name started with a P and ended with a Y. And then you had to get a dog. And your name started with a P and ends with a Y. I think secretly you want to be me.


Michelle: No, not at all. It’s the name that she came with, and I didn’t want to distract. I didn’t want to confuse her. So I also just love the paisley print, and it’s a cute. And she’s super cute, and it’s the cutest name. And I love her so much because she’s cute and she’s cuter than Peppy, and she’s even cuter than you. So, my dog is better and my dog is, so you don’t even take your dog on walks. Gabe.


Gabe: Well, that’s because I don’t go on walks. And I don’t live in New York City, right? We should be clear. You have to take your dog for a walk. My dog’s bathroom, which is my backyard, is bigger than your whole apartment. My dog’s wealthy compared to your dog.


Michelle: Your dog doesn’t have any dog friends.


Gabe: That is true. My dog has no dog friends. Which I think is why you’ve got this whole thing about how my dog likes you more than me. But maybe to Peppy. You’re his dog friend.


Michelle: I’m his. I chased him around the couch. Gabe, you don’t even


Gabe: Yep.


Michelle: Play with him like that. I would run around the couch chasing him all over the place. But you just sit on the couch and throw things at him, and then he has to go chase them. You.


Gabe: I don’t throw things at him. I play fetch with him. But. But again, I think Peppy thinks you’re a dog. You make these weird noises at him, you chase him around the couch. I think my dog thinks that you are his dog friend.


Michelle: Well because he has no dog friends.


Gabe: That’s it. That’s all you got? You’re just.


Michelle: Because your dog has no dog friends.


Gabe: Who’s Paisley’s dog friend?


Michelle: Every time we go for a walk, she meets a dog friend and she then they play, and then she spins in a million circles and they play and they make friends. She had a dog friend named Leo yesterday. She made a dog friend named something I don’t even know. A little white little snowman looking dog. She got a dog friend named POTUS, president of the United States. Somebody named their dog POTUS. That’s really weird to me. And then she had another little dog friend. She’s got a dog friend named Demi. She’s got a dog friend named Phil. They’re all friends.


Gabe: Did they text each other?


Michelle: We have dog cafes, you have dog cafes, we have dog cafes.


Gabe: I don’t know what’s happening in New York, but those of us who don’t live in New York, we have like normal hobbies, like going to movies and just walking around in wide open spaces, not trying to marry off our dogs. Right. We have normal hobbies, like, like going to the movies, going to dinner and not putting ourselves in little tubes with, with, with hundreds of angry, pissed off people. By the way, is your dog allowed to go on the subway?


Michelle: Yeah. You can bring on the dog on the subway. They’re supposed to be in a bag, but, I mean, it is what it is.


Gabe: That’s it. I just find New York weird. But again, just I we’ve fallen down a the biggest of all rabbit holes. The point is, is how these dogs are helping our mental health. So first I want to state unequivocally Michelle and I do not have service animals. They don’t have any specialized training. They’re not like seeing eye dogs. They are just our pets. But that said, that doesn’t mean that our pets don’t provide us with some emotional support or some help or alleviate some of the symptoms of bipolar and schizophrenia and of course, other symptoms like anxiety and loneliness and depression. So I do want to be clear we do not have service dogs. This is not about service dogs. This is about how pets. And because Michelle and I have dogs, we’re going to talk about dogs, help us manage bipolar and schizophrenia. So Michelle, let’s start with you. Why did you get a dog in the first place? Because if I recall, it really did have something to do with trying to manage your mental health.


Michelle: Well, I just wanted something to love. I was thinking, should I have a baby? I don’t really know about that. Let’s get a dog. You know, I think I think a dog is easier than a baby. You know what I mean? So that was kind of why I got a dog, honestly.


Gabe: So, so just to make sure you were debating between getting a little dog or a human.


Michelle: Yes.


Gabe: Just out of curiosity, what was the pro and con list on that like?


Michelle: Well, you know, babies, they’re really expensive. You got to get pregnant, you got to really take care of them. You got to, like, change their diapers. And then for the next 18 years, you’re really in charge of them. And then after they’re 18, they’re still clinging to you and you’re really responsible for them. And the responsibility for babies are way more than a dog.


Gabe: Please do not interpret my silence. I just, I, I, I just it’d be like if somebody said, hey, I’m trying to decide if I want to buy a car or a Learjet. On one hand, I guess they’re both true, but there’s just a world of difference between a Learjet and an automobile. There’s a world of difference between a dog and a baby. It wouldn’t seem to me to be the type of thing. Actually, the very fact that you think they’re comparables is proof you made the right choice. I am so glad. You agree with me. You do agree with me though, right? Babies and dogs are not the same, right? I’m not. I’m not trying to bust your chops, but for real, you get it, right?


Michelle: Babies and dogs are not the same. I get it, I get it. A baby is a big responsibility. And I was thinking about that, maybe trying it, that then I was like, you know what, let’s get a dog.


Gabe: Let’s get a dog. Okay, I think you chose correctly. So now you’ve got this dog, right? And you wanted something to love. Did it work? Did does caring for this dog help with with your management of schizophrenia?


Michelle: Oh, definitely, because the dog puts me on a schedule. And it does help because, you know, the dog wakes me up. I get woken up every morning by this dog licking me all over the face, all over the face, like. And I wake up early. Now, remember, I like, never woke up early, like ever. I get woken up early because this dog likes to just wake me up at whatever time to go out. So I’ll wake up at like 830 in the morning. Now, I used to never wake up at 830. Gabe, you know me like 11 was like the earliest, you know?


Gabe: So what you’re saying is our podcast producer, Lisa, who doesn’t get up before noon, needs a dog.


Michelle: Yes, yes. This dog. This dog. Just this dog makes out with me every morning.


Gabe: So. Now, by making out with you, you mean licks your face right? To wake you up.


Michelle: Well, she licks my lips. She licks my lips.


Gabe: Right. But. But do you think the dog is making out with you? Or is the dog just licking your face to wake you up?


Michelle: I don’t know.


Gabe: Do you really not know?


Michelle: No. She’s just trying to wake me up.


Gabe: See. Okay good good good good good good. All right.


Michelle: Now. Now, Gabe, why did you get Mr. Peppy?


Gabe: So interesting story. You were weighing the pros and cons of dog versus baby. I was weighing the pros and cons of dog versus divorce. Not literally, but my wife wanted a dog. She wanted. She wanted a pet. It wasn’t even a dog. She wanted a pet. She would have been happy with a cat, a dog. She’d just. She’s an animal person. And we lived in an animal free environment. Now, I am not an animal hater. I want to be very, very clear. But not an animal lover, right? I like to play with, you know, kittens and dogs and other people’s animals, but I don’t like them in my house. That’s just how I felt about it. But. But my wife really, really wanted a pet, and I really felt like I was standing in the way of her happiness. I mean, it is her house too. And so I started doing a little bit of research to try to figure out if I could find some sort of animal that, that that would keep me happy and make her happy. And eventually I found schnauzers and the advantage of a mini schnauzer we’ve got a mini schnauzer is they’re small and they don’t shed. They have hair, not fur, fur continuously sheds. And that’s why people, you know, with dogs have hair all over there, their, their clothes, their house, etc. something that is living with bipolar disorder and just being finicky and just just being weird. I don’t like that at all. But they don’t shed. And I really liked that. So I met and they have a really, really calm temperament. Right? They’re really docile. They they train easy. They listen well. And I was, I was I was happy with that. And then I made a list of rules of things for Kendall and my wife and I. Then I agreed to get a dog.


Michelle: We have opposite dogs.


Gabe: We have opposite dogs.


Michelle: I’m okay. My dog sheds. She’s not calm and she doesn’t listen to any rules.


Gabe: So basically you’ve got a Michelle dog and I’ve got a Gabe dog because


Michelle: Yes.


Gabe: My dog has a super shit ton of anxiety.


Michelle: Oh, my dog has anxiety. If anything falls, she gets scared all the time.


Gabe: So once again, you’ve got a Michelle dog and I’ve got a Gabe dog.


Michelle: I don’t get scared. I’m not a scared person.


Gabe: I mean, you kind of are.


Michelle: You think I’m scared? I’m not scared of you, Gabe. You think I’m scared of you?


Gabe: Well, who would be scared of me?


Michelle: What are the rules for your dog?


Gabe:  Basically I sat my wife down and I said, we can get a dog, but it’s got to be your dog. I sort of did the mom and dad sitting down the kids, we can get a dog, but you have to take care of it thing. I said, I’m not fencing in the backyard. That’s really expensive. I don’t want a fence in the backyard. I said that the dog can’t sleep with us. I don’t want the dog in our bed in the way, etc. dogs not allowed on the furniture. That was one of them. And then there was just a few other things that, that, that, that my wife had to take care of. And that was, that was going to be those were the rules that I just. And she agreed to them. My, my wife agreed to every one of them.


Michelle: How was your backyard not fenced in?


Gabe: My backyard just wasn’t fenced in. It had no it had no fence up. It just it just it went into the neighbor’s yard and yeah, it just there was no fence there.


Michelle: But the backyard is the dog’s yard. You just let him out in the yard.


Gabe: When we first got the dog, we put the dog on a lead. So I had like this, this 35-foot lead that that I


Michelle: Yeah.


Gabe: Attached to the dog’s collar. And then the dog had 35 feet to run around on. This leads the dog didn’t run away.


Michelle: I do that at my parents’ house. It has a lead.


Gabe: Yeah, exactly. Because your parents, your parents don’t have a fenced in backyard.


Michelle: Right.


Gabe: It’s much easier to let the dog out if you’ve got a fenced in backyard. And also they can run. They can run and play. They don’t have this 35-foot cord hanging off of them. I, I just you got to picture this tiny little puppy, you know, he’s a puppy. We got him only six weeks old and he’s got this, this


Gabe: 35-foot lead hanging off of him. And he kept he kept getting stuck. He it was he couldn’t run. He couldn’t play. He’d get all twisted up in it. It was just the saddest thing. It really, really was.


Michelle: Well. So how did those rules turn out then?


Gabe: Poorly, just absolutely poorly. Within a couple of months, I ordered a fence. I just I couldn’t take it. The dog had to have a fence. So the dog could run and play and be free within. Within, I don’t know, a couple of weeks, basically, as long as it took to housebreak the dog. The dog was sleeping in our bed, sleeping on the dog runs the house. I love this dog. I never wanted this dog. This is my dog, Michelle. This is my dog. So this is this is sort of where you and I are coming. We end up in the same place, but from two very different directions. I didn’t want the dog at all, but I acknowledged that the dog has some mental health benefits. You wanted the dog because you wanted to explore those mental health benefits. And I think that’s really interesting because I didn’t expect to get any mental health benefits at all. Now. Now, I want to be clear, the dog did not cure bipolar disorder. I’m not on less medication, I just. But I got to tell you, when I can’t sleep, like, like in the middle of the night at 2 a.m., when everything’s quiet and everybody’s asleep and I’m just sitting there feeling lonely. And the dog pops up and sits next to me and, you know, puts his little snout on my leg and just kind of looks up at me. It’s sweet. It’s just it’s calming. It’s nice.


Michelle: Do you get any backlash for having a dog and you’re bipolar?


Gabe: Why the hell would I get backlash for having a dog with bipolar disorder? That’s what? Like?


Michelle: I get backlash for having a dog and being schizophrenic.


Gabe: Really? Like. Like what kind of backlash? I don’t. Are they afraid you’re going to eat the dog? I don’t understand like how what I what possible criticism could you have a dog and schizophrenia generate?


Michelle: Okay, so if anyone follows me on social media, on Instagram or TikTok at Schizophrenic.NYC, something that I do is that I have a security camera and I use it to record my little schizophrenia episodes of me on the couch or walking around just talking to myself. And many of these videos. My dog is in the background. People will comment, oh, that poor dog. Oh, get that dog out of her. Oh, she’s going to hurt the dog. All these things, all these horrible things about me having a dog and how I’m hurting the dog. People are right. Tons of comments about how I need to get rid of my dog, and then I’m going to hurt the dog. A lot of comments like this, it happens all the time. So finally, I made a post and I wrote how beneficial dogs are for people with mental illnesses. And you have got to read one comment I got from that. You want to hear this comment I got after I wrote the post about how dogs are good for people with mental illness?


Gabe: Now? Now hang on, was this a public post? Was the


Michelle: Yeah.


Gabe: Person. Okay. Yeah yeah yeah. Go.


Michelle: Yeah. She wrote everything you said about why you got and kept the dog in your caption was fully focused on how it benefited you and only you. Nothing about the dog and how he she feels about being around somebody with this condition. Treating animals like they’re like they only exist to benefit humans is wrong on so many levels.


Gabe: I’m struggling with this one.


Michelle: Does my dog need therapy?


Gabe: I, I, I you can hear in my voice that I’m, I don’t think that your dog needs therapy. I just, I, I’m, I’m, I’m struggling with this one because they’re what do they say that that that that that every good joke has a little bit of truth in it, right. I, I, I do I but then again I eat meat. So I guess that animals do exist. Just I man, I


Michelle: It’s just


Gabe: Just.


Michelle: I get a lot of comments about how I, how my how my oh, that dog is so skinny. My dog’s just skinny.


Gabe: I mean, you go to a vet, right? You’ve had your dog checked out by vets. I mean, it’s just.


Michelle: They say I abused my dog. People seriously say that I am abusing. I get so many comments about saying I’m abusing my dog, but then I also get the comments that I think the dog can see your hallucination too. I think there’s a third eye in there and the dog can see it as well. You should see the comments that I get about my dog, if my dog is in the video while I’m talking to hallucinations are absolutely ridiculous.


Gabe: I. Okay, hang on, hang on. We’ve got too many things going on at once. First and foremost, you say that that people are giving you shit because your dog is witnessing a schizophrenia episode, and that’s making them scared. And sort of as a as a caveat to that, people are also saying that you’re a bad dog owner because you’ve talked about your benefits of dog ownership, but you didn’t clearly state what’s in it for the dog.


Michelle: Right. What’s in it for the dog?


Gabe: Okay, now, I but I want to hang on for one second, I just. Did anybody ask you? Hey, what’s in it for the dog? I’m not. I go going back to my initial confusion, I guess. I want to be clear, I, I think that we do need to provide for our pets. It is our responsibility to feed them, to get them veterinary care if they are scared because fireworks are going off or horns, etc., we shouldn’t just shove them in a room and let them suffer. We should try to comfort them. I, I do agree we need to be providing for our animals, but I just you. Your statement of how the dog was helping you wasn’t exclusive of all of those things. That just wasn’t the topic of the post. So I’m a little bit curious as to why the person read it and decided that you hated your animal and that you didn’t care about them, because this one post didn’t include that. So the first thing I want to do is what are the benefits for the dog? As far as you’re concerned, I answer this woman’s question what benefits does the dog have living with Michelle?


Michelle: Well, well, I, I, I rescued the dog. Well, there’s a benefit right there. It was a rescue. I didn’t go to a breeder or anything. I feed the dog, I walk the dog. I love the dog. I cuddle the dog. I play tug of war with the dog. We play fetch. I, you know, give it a belly scratch. What does. What does a dog want? What else does a dog want? What? Give it treats. What? Like if the dog needed like a list of things. What does a dog need on a list? I bring the dog to the vet. What? What else do you need to do to the dog? I said I bring the dog to the dog cafe. The dog has friends. What else do I need to do for the dog?


Gabe: That’s true. Your dog has friends. My dog doesn’t even have friends. I’m failing miserably if I’m supposed to create a social circle for pets.


Michelle: People comment like they write, oh my God, that poor dog cry face, your dog is scared, you shouldn’t have a dog. I get these comments.


Gabe: Okay. So let’s talk about that for a moment. Do you feel that the reason people say that poor dog is because of the stigma of schizophrenia?


Michelle: Yes.


Gabe: Now, what if you were letting off fireworks? And I’m just. I’m just making something up. What if you had a video of you letting off fireworks and the dog was scared and people said that poor dog. Would you think that was stigmatizing?


Michelle: That would, that’s actually something that could be dangerous. But what the thing is, when I show these schizophrenia episodes, it’s me showing people that people with schizophrenia aren’t having episodes that are like running around with a knife trying to hurt people. It’s me sitting on my couch or just standing around talking to nobody that’s there. And I show people that they’re completely nonviolent. That’s the whole point of them. Then I had gotten a dog, and now sometimes the dog is in them. I’m not even acknowledging the dog in these schizophrenia episodes. So, and these episodes, it’s not like I’m just not acknowledging them. They last for maybe 10 to 15 seconds. So that’s how much I’m not acknowledging the dog for, you know what I’m saying? So, like, how am I, like hurting my dog when I, when I’m talking to myself? How am I hurting the dog? You could have no diagnosis whatsoever and be a horrible dog owner. But this person here with schizophrenia shouldn’t have a dog because I have schizophrenia. Yet people abuse dogs all the time. All the time they abuse dogs. But no, me, I shouldn’t have a dog. Oh, schizophrenic with a dog. Take it away. Take it away. What should she do? Put. I should put it back in a shelter. That’s terrible.


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Michelle: And we’re back talking about our dogs.


Gabe: I’m looking at this from a slightly different angle, Michelle. I just you’re the genesis of your videos is this you set up cameras all around your apartment so that you can capture symptoms episodes. Right. And the whole point of this is because you feel as we feel that people only talk about recovery as perfection, right? Many influencers are like, I’m doing well, I’m doing well, I’m doing well, I’m doing well, I’m doing well, I’m doing well, I’m doing well. And this creates this idea that that it’s, perfection is possible because they’re not hearing about the negatives. And you came up with an idea to fix this by essentially putting cameras all over your house. Kudos to you. And you create these little videos and they’re on there and they’re fantastic. But what people are watching is symptoms. They’re watching you in distress. They’re watching you have symptoms of schizophrenia. And the first thing that comes to mind for them is we’ve got to protect the dog.


Michelle: Yeah. Got to protect the dog. I’m. I guess I’m doing fine, I guess, but protect the dog. Protect the dog. Don’t worry about me. Protect the dog.


Gabe: I mean, I guess they know you’re okay because you posted the video like I’m trying to. I’m trying to do the light most favorable to them. I guess they know you’re okay because you posted the video, etc. but, but I still think, you know, my dog gets scared a lot, right? He really is a really anxious dog. My, my wife jokes that that that Peppy is an extension of me. Right. He’s anxious, he’s fussy. He’s just he’s a he’s a weird dog sometimes for no reason. He gets manic. They call him the zoomies. But, you know, mania is funnier because I live with bipolar disorder. But, you know, we just deal with it when too many people get in the house and he goes, you know, we put him outside, you know, some sometimes we have to shut him in a room until he calms down. We do our best. But I can only imagine if somebody said, look, you’ve got to cancel your Christmas party, right? You can have 15 people in your house to celebrate Christmas because it’s bad for your dog, because your dog gets anxious and nervous and starts acting out. I just could you imagine? I, I just can’t imagine somebody seeing a video of a party at Gabe’s house and seeing that the dog doesn’t like the crowd and saying to me, you’re a bad dog owner, you shouldn’t have a dog because you have 15 people over your house to celebrate the holidays. But for some reason, if you have schizophrenia, shame on you.


Michelle: The thing is, in the videos, the dog’s not even acknowledging me. The dog will be like eating out of the dog bowl. The dog’s not even looking at me. The dog’s just in the background.


Gabe: So, you’re saying that they’re just assuming the dog is scared? The dog doesn’t even. I’ve sort of been approaching this as maybe the dog looks nervous or worried or?


Michelle: Not at all. The dog doesn’t even acknowledge that I’m doing anything.


Gabe: Dog doesn’t give a rat’s ass?


Michelle: Not one bit. Dog doesn’t care whatsoever. Doesn’t even know what’s happening. But people try to go. I think the dog is seeing something to know.


Gabe: Okay. Well, let’s talk about that. Let’s move on to those emails. Because you’re saying that people write you and say that whatever hallucination you’re having whether visual, auditory delusions, it, etc., your dog is witnessing as well, what


Michelle: Yes,


Gabe: Are those like?


Michelle: They honestly say they think it’s a third eye and the dog can see it too. And the dog can tell that it’s there. They believe the dog can also see it. I’m like, what are you talking about? Like, what are you talking about? How can my dog see my hallucination? What are these? I cannot fathom where these people come up with these ideas. How can my dog see my hallucination?


Gabe: I mean, is your dog schizophrenic?


Michelle: I don’t think so.


Gabe: I mean, I’m not.


Michelle: Not that I. I mean, I never got the dog checked out.


Gabe: I mean, just so you have. Let’s let all joking aside, right? Right. You have you live with somebody, you have parents, you have friends, you have me. We have all been around you when you were symptomatic with schizophrenia. And nobody has ever once said that any of us should see the hallucinations because we’re in the room with you.


Michelle: Exactly.


Gabe: Nobody has ever accused any of us of having a third eye, or somehow magically connecting to you and experiencing the hallucination with you. In fact, we’re all tagged in as a very as support. We’re all tagged in as support. None of us have ever nobody has ever said, oh my God, Gabe, you spent a lot of time with Michelle. Are you worried about catching schizophrenia? But yet the dog is catching it, like. Like what medical mechanism is that?


Michelle: I have no freaking clue. I don’t know if people on social media like. Do they just say things? Do they believe these things? Are these people mentally ill that are saying this, or are these stable people or where do they come from? I just can’t fathom why anyone would ever think that. It’s beyond anything I can ever understand. And it’s just like, ridiculous. And what’s funny is that whenever somebody makes a comment that I should get rid of my dog, my partner Carrie, Carrie posts a post of me and the dog with that comment and says that I’m a wonderful dog mom with a video of me and the dog like loving each other and just will just keep posting videos like that. There are so many reposts of these comments, and me and my dog just hanging out just at every single one of these. There’s so many videos of that because she just keeps doing it over and over and over again to every comment that I get negative about having a dog, because it’s just so absurd and she gets so annoyed by it.


Gabe: We never give enough credit to our partners for helping us, I, I. Kendall,


Michelle: Yeah.


Gabe: My wife I mean, she she’s constantly defending me in whatever way she can. And I just kind of ignore it. So. Carrie is super kind and super sweet and I’m glad she’s got your back. But I got to say, one of the,  I’m my mind is going in two directions at the same time. My mind is going one in the practical direction of really, perfection is the only thing we’re willing to accept. The only way that you can own a dog is if you never make a mistake, if you’re never gone too long, if you never accidentally forget to feed them, if they never. If you’re never in a bad mood and yell at them. If you never step on them going up the steps. If I mean just if you never board them, kennel them. If you never get a Groupon and take them to a shitty groomer. I mean, just perfection, right? Is just that’s all we’re willing to accept. The only way that you can have a dog is if your lifestyle never causes the dog any. I’m going to go with negative. I guess that just doesn’t seem. Reasonable. Dogs have personalities and some things. My dog loses his shit when I turn on the vacuum cleaner. Am I honestly expected not to vacuum for the rest of the dog’s life because it causes him duress? That doesn’t seem right. So even if this is my point, Michelle, even if your symptoms of schizophrenia cause your dog duress, I still don’t think that makes you a bad dog owner. Sincerely, I don’t I really, really don’t I just what’s the alternative? For real? I just what’s the alternative but to. I’m not convinced that that your dog is experiencing symptoms of duress.


Michelle: None whatsoever. None. None. None.


Gabe: And I do want to clarify that I’m not trying to say that Michelle is doing something wrong. So I’m really considering your symptoms of schizophrenia. And let’s pretend for just just a moment that the dog is bothered by them. You have said that they’re not, and I believe you. But let’s say that the dog is. So what? You are a person living with schizophrenia and you have symptoms and let’s say this does bother the dog. Is that really is that really a disqualifier to ownership? I mean, Peppy, over the years my dog has gotten used to the vacuum cleaner, right? I mean, he just he’s less scared now than he was when he was a puppy. But ultimately, when I pull out the vacuum and he goes nuts, I think, well, you know, look, this is his exercise for the day. I know your dog isn’t even bothered, but even if your dog was, I still don’t think that should be a barrier to you owning a dog. But the very fact that your dog isn’t tells me that a lot of these people are just responding to the fact that you live with schizophrenia. And


Michelle: Absolutely.


Gabe: This is an interesting thing that I was thinking of. You know, I post pictures of my dog. I live with bipolar disorder, and nobody has once said that I should not be a dog owner because of bipolar disorder. Ever. Now I’m I do not have the videos with the symptoms like you do, so it’s not a fair comparison. But sincerely, nobody batted an eye. In fact, when I said we have a dog, everybody said, oh, that’ll be good. Maybe you won’t be so lonely. They actually immediately just saw benefits.


Gabe: And many people, when they describe the mental health benefits of owning an animal, they talk about how it sort of forces them to interact with other people, especially dogs, because they’re going to dog parks or going to doggy daycare. They’re going on walks and they run into other people. And people say, can I pet your dog? They take the dog to festivals and things like that. You mentioned at the beginning of the episode, it forces you on a schedule because you have to get up to take care of the dog. Right. So here is an example of you can create this. You have to walk the dog. You have to take the dog out and you’re not wrong. And then you get a mental health boost in a couple of ways. One, if you’re walking the dog, that means you’re walking to exercise really is valuable for everybody, but especially for people with bipolar and schizophrenia. And two, like you said, it forces you to be social.


Michelle: You’re taking your dog on a walk, you’re taking your dog on a walk. And usually other people’s dogs want to talk to your dog. If your dog isn’t friendly, they hold their dog away. But there’s a lot of dogs that are friendly, and they want to meet the other dog and talk to the dog. When you go to the dog cafe, the dogs want to play, and then you meet the dog’s parents and you become friends. We’ve made friends with other dog parents and then they come over. They bring the dogs and we like hang out with the dogs, have fun and we hang out with the other dog parents. It’s a way to meet people because it might be a city full of millions of people, but you still have to make friends. There’s a lot of people here, but you still got to get a friendship somehow.


Gabe: I cannot deny the inherent benefits of pet ownership. I really do want to emphasize, Michelle, I’m not an animal lover, but I want to remind everybody that there’s there’s more than just I love animals, I hate animals, right? There’s also just uninterested. Right? Just because I don’t want to own a pet doesn’t mean that I hate animals. I so many people, when I’m, you know, say things like, well, I’m not really an animal lover. Like, oh my God, how can you not like animals? Well, I do like animals. I just like them to live in other people’s houses. I want to say, though, that I was genuinely surprised at the mental health benefits of dog ownership. And they they came out of nowhere for, for for me. Just people asking me about the dog. Getting


Michelle: Right.


Gabe: A cuddle with the dog in the middle of the night was beneficial. Hell, on social media, posting a picture of me like cuddling my dog. And, you know, a hundred people comment on how cute that is. The big guy with the dog, it’s kind of nice. It’s reaffirming. When I meet people for the first time, I have something to talk about other than the weather and just minutia. I can talk about our pets.


Michelle: Absolutely, absolutely. I went to an event, a negative symptom sort of event with a with a pharmaceutical company. I showed up the woman that was my connect goes first thing she says to me. Michelle, how’s your dog? First thing she said to me on so many zoom calls. Oh, you have a dog? What kind of dog do you have? All the time. It’s always something to talk about. It’s like it’s. It just gives you something to chat about all the time. Or it’s like, I’m so bored, I want to go for a walk. Oh, a walk would be weird. Oh, I have a dog. Let me take my dog on a walk. It socializes you. It brings you out of your shell. You can do things. And then you also you meet another person with a dog. Oh, we bring in dogs here. Like I said before, it just brings you out of your shell when you have something to do with a dog. Otherwise you’re walking around alone. Oh, why would I just talk to a random person? Well, me, I can just do that. But, you know, just when you have something to show to be like, oh, it’s cute. You make a friend. If it was a baby, it’d be much harder. Another reason why I didn’t have a baby.


Gabe: You know, Michelle, is obviously we have to wrap up, and I really hope that we’ve done a good job of not just convincing you that animals are good and that pets are fun, because I think America is really aligned with that already. I don’t think that we have to convince you that people are happy with their animals and they love their animals. I mean, it’s just well-established in our society that that pet ownership provides some sort of morale, boost happiness, boost emotional support. And when it comes to living with bipolar and schizophrenia, I think having something to take care of, having something to love, having something to be responsible for, I really do think it pays dividends. But you know, Michelle joked, I was going to have a baby or a pet, a baby or a dog, a baby or a dog. Now anybody listening to this is immediately going to think having a baby is a big decision. It’s a big decision. There’s a lot of responsibility and you just can’t have a baby willy nilly. I want everybody to apply that exact same logic to pet ownership. If you are listening to this right now, please do not hit stop on this podcast and go get a dog.


Gabe: You need to really think about it. Dogs are for a lifetime. They involve a lot of time, money, effort, responsibility. We do think that there are benefits. A lot of people think that there are benefits, but in order to get those benefits, you have to be stable and set up and ready to accept the responsibility of dog ownership. So I want to be very clear, very, very clear. Anybody who gets an animal without thinking about how they’re going to care for the animal, what their daily plan is, where the dog is going to go and they go on vacation, how they’re going to afford cat litter or whatever kind of we’ve been talking about dogs. That’s why I keep saying dogs. You’re doing a great disservice to yourself, and you’re doing a disservice to the animal that you get. I mean, look, even Michelle, who for some reason thinks that babies and dogs are in the same category, agrees that you just can’t run out and grab a pet willy nilly. You’ve got to be ready for it, and you’ve got to be right. Michelle why am I putting words


Michelle: Those


Gabe: In your mouth?


Michelle: Those


Gabe: You’re sitting


Michelle: Vet


Gabe: Right here.


Michelle: Bills are pricey. Vet bills are pricey. Don’t like vet bills. Can’t just go out and get a dog. Get a, get a and you got to get a good dog. Don’t get a bad one, get a good one. You can always start with fostering a dog too, but you got to make sure it comes from a good place. Because I thought we fostered a dog for about a week, and this dog did not come from a good place and it was very, very vicious. But I have to say, that dog actually jumped on Tina Fey.


Gabe: Oh my God, you had a dog that attacked Tina Fey?


Michelle: Just jumped on her. Just jumped. And she goes, we go, I’m so sorry. And she goes, don’t worry, it’s okay. Yeah. Fostered a dog for a week and it jumped on Tina Fey. That happened. Should have saved that for two truths and a lie.


Gabe: Yeah. That’s a that’s a good point. I got to be honest, I don’t think that I would have thought that one was the truth. Now we


Michelle: Mm-hmm.


Gabe: Are out of time, but we want to remind everybody that we are on the air because of the support of well, well, frankly, just an amazing group of people. And we promise that we would read their names at the end of every episode. So Michelle read those names now.


Michelle: Here I go: Bonnie Landini, Jeff and Sue Hammer, Frances D. Thayer, Leigh Harris, Ross Milne, Gregory Zarian, Ariella “Ari” Kadosh, Kathleen McKeon, Judene Shelley, Elmer Earley, Carolynn Ponzoha, Dr. John Grohol, John Humphrey, Sara Danner, Lisa Kiner, and Marilyn Knight. 


Gabe: We want to keep doing this for as long as we can afford to. And you can still donate right now. Just go to BSP.show/support. There’s many, many ways to donate and there’s still really, really cool prizes. Like I said on episode one, my grandmother walks around wearing that shirt like she is the master of her domain, and she points out to every member of my family that they don’t have one. And she does. That shirt, of course, is still available on BSP.show/support. All right, everybody, thanks for being here. We got a couple of favors to ask before we leave. First, wherever you downloaded and listened to this episode, subscribe or follow. It is absolutely free and you don’t want to miss a thing. Next, we need you to share the show, tell people about it, bring it up in a support group, bring it up in a private forum, bring it up on Quora and Reddit and Facebook groups. Share it everywhere you can because sharing the show is how we grow now. My name is Gabe Howard and I wrote the book “Mental Illness Is an Asshole and Other Observations,” which you can get on Amazon, but I’d really prefer you head over to my website and buy it there. I’ll sign it and throw in some free swag. And that website is gabehoward.com.


Michelle: And I’m Michelle Hammer. You can find me at Schizophrenic.NYC to find everything that I sell, all of my merch, my clothing and lifestyle brand. And I just started home.Schizophrenic.NYC to find more home and living type stuff. Follow me by my username is pretty much Schizophrenic.NYC everywhere you can find it. And that’s right, find me Michelle hammer. You know it. I love you and I hope you love me too.


Gabe: I really get the idea that you are Schizophrenic.NYC. Is that correct?


Michelle: I mean, I don’t know what else to say, Gabe. That’s what I say. I don’t know, I don’t have the best pitch at the end because I didn’t write a book.


Gabe: All right, everybody, we will see you next time on a bipolar, a schizophrenic and a podcast.


Michelle: Bark. Woof!


Announcer: You’ve been listening to A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast. Previous episodes can be found on your favorite podcast player or by visiting 

ThisEmotionalLife.org/BSP. Have comments or show ideas? Hit up the show at BSP@ThisEmotionalLife.org. Gabe and Michelle are not medical professionals. This podcast is not a substitute for medical advice and is for entertainment purposes only. If you or a loved one needs help, please call, text or chat the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. That’s 988. Thank you for listening.

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