Nothing puts a smile on my face like watching puppy videos, despite never actually having a dog of my own. There’s something about these cute little animals that gets my heart. All I ever want to do is be in a pile of puppies, having all the cuddles. That’d be a dream, wouldn’t it?

Well, I got the opportunity to turn my dreams into reality. I am officially a Puppy Cuddler with Halton Hills Doodles in Burlington, Ontario.

Yep, that’s my actual job title.

I started looking into the job a few weeks ago on a whim. My friend sent me a post on Instagram from Halton Hills Doodles saying that they were looking for people who loved dogs to be Puppy Cuddlers and help raise the dogs until they were 8 weeks old. I’ve always been an “if you don’t try you’ll never know” kind of person, so I decided to apply.

Lo and behold, one interview and an afternoon of suppressing the urge to say “hi buddy” to every little pup I saw later, I was offered the position!

My role is pretty straightforward. I show up, take the puppies out of their pens, and then for the next hour we play and cuddle. By this time, they’ve usually tuckered themselves out, so we grab their moms to help feed them. Then, while all the puppies fall asleep, one by one, I clean up, turn off the lights and head home. 

For the most part, the job  was exactly what I expected. However, what I wasn’t prepared for was how deeply heartwarming and fulfilling this role would be.

I remember after my first shift, I came home and couldn’t stop smiling. I felt like the Grinch when his heart grew three sizes. I couldn’t remember the last time I felt such innocent bliss. 

I struggle with symptoms of depression on a daily basis. It doesn’t mean that I’m always sad, but I often find my regular mood being more of a 4 out of 10, especially when the days get shorter in the fall and I end up spending more time in the darkness than sun. It’s rare for me to feel this warm and fuzzy for hours.

I’ve tried a lot of different things to integrate self-care into my life every single day, but with little to no avail. I loved going for walks in the summer to uplift my mood, but the cold Canadian winters make it hard to maintain this nugget of self-care year round. 

Of course, this isn’t some sort of revolutionary reveal. Pet therapy has become more popular in mainstream media and can help relieve different kinds of stress. Interacting with pets has been known to help reduce feelings of loneliness, improve mood, and have a positive increase in general wellbeing. 

As someone who takes care of puppies once a week, I can attest to the benefits of pet therapy.

This role was an eye opener about how incredible alternative forms of therapy can be for those who struggle with their mental health. In the western world, we often see a push for more ‘modernized’ concepts of wellbeing such as talk therapy and medications. I’m a strong believer that each has it’s place, but throughout my healing journey, I’ve learned that since our minds are so individualistic, our mental health needs are just as unique. 

Being a professional puppy cuddler has definitely changed my life and I’m so thankful to have a space to experience the benefits and learn more about it.

These puppies might just be my saviours this winter. Who knows, next maybe I’ll have to invest in my very own therapy dog! 

Until then, I’ll be posting videos of my work colleagues, Apricot and Coco, for the remainder of the winter.

About the author

Jessie Brar

Jessie Brar (she/her) is a writer, public speaker, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion professional and Mental Health Activist. She graduated from Queen's University with a degree in Psychology and has worked with several notable organisations worldwide to help raise awareness around important social justice topics and advocate for change. She is deeply passionate about her intersectional identities and is committed to being a life-long learner through her work. Check her out on Instagram - @jessieebrar.

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