In February, Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love stopped his car to prevent traffic from running over an injured dog in the middle of the street. Had it not been for the five-time All-Star, the miniature pinscher likely would have been killed. Thanks to Love, Harley, an emotional service animal, only suffered four broken ribs and lost two teeth.
In addition to being a feel-good story, Love helping to save Harley may have been kismet as the 33-year-old NBA star is a pet parent to a licensed therapy dog named Vestry, who has helped him with some of his struggles.
Love, who was one of the first athletes to go public about his battle with mental health when he penned an essay for The Players’ Tribune in 2018 about having a panic attack, and his fiancée Kate Bock got Vestry, a vizsla, after he wrote “Everybody is Going Through Something” for the Tribune. Now more than three years old, Vestry has been nothing short of a revelation for the NBA champion.
“Just being around her is good for my mental health. She’s the quintessential Velcro dog,” Love, who will be celebrating Vestry’s half birthday this April with Milk-Bone Birthday Cake biscuits, tells InsideHook. “So much in the past, I was reactionary in taking care of myself during those moments when I was hurt. I didn’t feel like I added any value to anything or any value to the world. Having Vestry’s companionship when Kate was traveling was amazing for me. Especially during that puppy stage after I had that very public mental health episode was huge for me. It was a moment of need when I was hurt and could have just been alone for a very long time. Having someone to come home to after a long road trip or game when Kate isn’t here is definitely something that is not lost on me. It’s really great to have a companion. I’d say getting a dog by all means will change your life for the better. Having her betters my mental health. I’m not afraid to speak about it because the benefits of having a dog are proven.”
Though he can’t take her on road trips with the Cavaliers, Love and Bock do their best to bring Vestry with them whenever they travel.
“She’s a licensed therapy dog so she’s able to travel with us,” Love says. “It’s the greatest thing ever because an airport is maybe the number-one place where I feel the most anxiety. You’re just big, you’re moving through a space where there’s a lot of people, you’re having to get through security, you’re kind of bunched up. Even in the plane everybody’s kind of in a tight space. Having her not only takes the eyes off of me because everybody loves looking at a dog and she’s beautiful and nice and is kind, but also she’s like a weighted blanket when she’s sitting on you or sitting at your feet within the plane itself. She’s a great traveling companion.”
Vestry is also an asset for a Love at home, whether it’s at his apartment in New York City during the offseason or at his place in Cleveland when the Cavs are playing ball.
“Getting out and walking her lets me get fresh air, gets me out of my head and also gets me off of my phone. I think just detaching from that and getting my screen time down has really been huge for me and made me more productive in a lot of ways with a better quality of life. Just get out of your head. It’s a beautiful thing. Vestry definitely helps in a number of ways that I didn’t notice at first, including that.”
Another way Vestry aids Love is by helping him find balance and stay present.
“We outlive dogs by five or six times and I’m hoping Vestry will live forever, but it’s just not going to be the case,” he says. “I’m living for now and taking advantage of the time that we have because it’s fast fleeting. I’m 14 years into the NBA. It feels like a year or two ago that I was just starting as a 19-year-old coming into the league. So again, it’s just taking advantage of the time we have with her and giving her all the love. Whether she’s sitting on the couch and it’s giving her a little kiss on the forehead or little rub when I come past or giving her a little Milk-Bone treat or feeding her in the morning, it’s just giving her love and staying present with her. I think she helps me understand that in a way and teaches me that.”
She also happens to love basketball.
“Along with being at the beach and chasing birds, basketball is her favorite. I don’t think there’s anything she loves more than that. So, it’s very fitting that she ended up with us,” Love says.