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Sometimes when I have someone over, or if I'm over someone else's and they have a pet, I'll play with the pet while talking to them. It makes it a lot easier to not be anxious talking to them. Idk if it's because my attention is distracted onto the pet, or because pets are naturally calming, or something else. Unfortunately when the pet leaves I lose that comfort.
 

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♎ Mackinac Island Fanatic
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I find animals to be a sort of soothing influence, too, that helps take away some of the anxiety. I can kind of focus my attention on the animal instead of solely on the person, and it gives me something to talk about. Plus, I almost ever experience social anxiety with animals, as long as they like me (and they often do :D ). Their friendliness is a boost to my confidence.

I went to visit a relative's house a long while back and felt terribly anxious and ill at ease, until I noticed the kittens wandering around. I waited for them to approach me and soon enough was cuddling and petting them and letting them sit on my lap. "They must really like you," my relative said. "They don't usually sit on people like that." So that really helped me feel better.

Some time back my dad and I discovered a tiny little terrier racing around our property, chasing the feral cats who then lived here. We managed to corral him and found out from his nametag that his name was Mario. His address was just down the road. Apparently he'd broken loose. I was scared to touch him but he was so wired up and focused on the cats that when I lifted him, he was as light as a feather (all his muscles tensed), and didn't even notice I was holding him, just lost in his own world. We drove to the neighbor's house and my dad took him out back and chained him back up. The neighbors never even knew they'd lost their dog. :lol Interestingly, I felt so emboldened with the dog in my possession that I was almost tempted to return him to the yard, myself.

Well, yesterday my mother and I were returning home from a walk when we heard furious barking from the neighbor's house, and turning to look, saw a woman with a tiny little terrier on a leash. I didn't even recognize him until I heard her call him Mario. His little legs were scrabbling like crazy as he barked at us, so I doubt he remembered me either. :lol Normally I get very anxious when passing other people out walking, but hearing Mario's name I smiled and said, "He got loose a while back and we found him on our property."

"Oh, really?" the neighbor said in surprise.

I laughed and said, "Then we brought him back," and she laughed as well and thanked me and we went our separate ways.

So, seeing Mario there helped lessen the anxiety a little, plus it opened up a teeny little conversation I wouldn't have otherwise had.

I often have to stop myself from outright approaching and petting other people's dogs when they're walking them. :eek:ops Lots of times I can tell from the way the dogs' eyes light up and how they strain toward me that they're interested too. If the dog shows enough obvious attention toward me, and the owner seems willing to let it approach, I might comment on it and have a small interaction with the owner.

Animals are so lovely, they don't judge us.
 

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Alone and happy about it
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My dog was probably my closest friend ever. I loved taking him out for walks and cuddling him. I can't do that anymore, sadly. Rest in peace, old friend :(
 
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