As someone who has experienced holiday depression in the past, today I want to talk about “the cure.” Yes, it’s a dog, and we all know what you get when you spell it backwards. Dogs are not only great companions, they give Prozac a run for its money when it comes to battling depression.
Much has been written about the healing power of humor. Dogs are natural comedians, in my experience. As I write this, my little Heinz-57 Mutt, two-year old Dora the “Explora”, who weighs 20 pounds, is playing tug-of-war with Jake, my sister’s 120-pound Australian Shepherd, using a little red rubber bone. They have been animatedly going at this game for the past four days, providing lots of photo op’s for our family Christmas celebrations. Jake usually lets Dora win. The laughs this new play ritual has brought us are priceless!
We have been a tad depressed lately for a variety of reasons, and whenever the negative stuff starts to get the best of me, I find myself going to the dogs – Dora and our five year old Corgi-mix, Bindi Sue. I grab a couple of Milk Bone cookies and call them from wherever they are hanging out. Watching Bindi Sue “shake hands” with her short, fat leg and big paw, in exchange for her cookie, makes me smile. And in case you don’t know, the mere act of smiling makes us feel better. Maybe that’s the deal with dogs and depression. Dogs often bring a smile when nothing else will. Dogs also need to be walked and going outside for a short walk is important when you are dealing with the blues.
If you are feeling depressed now as the New Year arrives, my advice is to get a dog. I know it’s hard to get a dog when you are renting; but sometimes landlords will allow you to get a small dog if you give them a cleaning deposit. If you or someone you know are suffering from depression, you might be able to get a doctor’s prescription for a service dog and with that, a landlord must accept the pooch. A good friend of mine who had been diagnosed with depression following the death of a loved one, was prescribed a service dog trained to handle psychiatric disabilities. A long-time apartment dweller, my friend had never owned a dog. She wasn’t keen on the idea suggested by the physician; but she wanted to feel better. So she adopted a beautiful Chihuahua. Within days, she and the dog had bonded and her life was turned upside down – or maybe downside up – with the challenges and joys of caring for her new companion. That was a couple of years ago and the pup still goes everywhere with her, for a good reason.
When searching for your dog, please start at the shelters or dog rescue groups. We adopted Dora as a companion for Bindi Sue. She came to us from a Corgi rescue organization. Turns out Dora hasn’t got an ounce of Corgi in her lineage, according to the doggy DNA test we did. She is part Chihuahua, Miniature Schnauzer, Collie, Schipperke, and Bull Mastiff, among other breeds. Maybe it’s the Bull Mastiff that makes big dog Jake her favorite playmate. Whatever. She’s our rescue puppy comedian and a great cure for holiday blues!
I’d welcome comments about your experience of a dog’s healing ways during a challenging time in your life! Happy New Year!