Today – August 26th – is National Dog Day!
I would like to use the opportunity to dedicate a quick post to my dogs, and to all dogs out there, who have in some way supported the lives of their owners – especially those suffering with mental illness like myself.
At the moment at my Dad’s house we have a dog aged (almost) 5 and a puppy aged 8 months (who prefer to remain anonymous!). The 5-year old, M, and I have a special relationship and I love him with all my heart. I always joke to people that he is the “canine version” of myself – we are similarly sensitive, submissive, and needy, and in need of a lot of attention and affection – and really, it is the truth! I love him like he is my baby, and everybody in my life knows it too.
Throughout some of the most difficult times of my life over the last few years, he has been a constant and unconditional comfort for me.
I know many people who, through having canine companions, have felt benefits to their mental health and overall well-being. Of course there is a physical benefit that results from the exercise of playing with and walking them regularly, but most importantly for me, is the emotional component –
Although I don’t see my dogs every day (due to the fact I am living between my parents’ houses), there is no doubt that I am always as excited to see them, as they are me. It is the best feeling in the world to have someone (whether human or dog!) run up to me, full speed, tail wagging, simply because I have returned. It doesn’t matter what mood I am in, how happy or grumpy or anxious or depressed I feel; whether I haven’t see them for a few hours, days, or even weeks, they are always just as delighted by my presence, and it is an honour to feel so welcomed by them, time and time again.
During some of the darkest moments over the years, even if I haven’t been able to keep myself safe or out of the pits of despair, my baby M has been there with me. He has slept next to me in my bed whilst I have cried myself to sleep and stayed throughout the night; he has pined and pawed at me to give him attention when getting off the sofa feels like an otherwise impossibility; he has sat by me with compassionate curious eyes and listened to me pour out my struggles; and has snuggled up to me any time I have needed physical affection, in a safe and cuddly form. He has even made me laugh due to many of his own mishaps and mayhem, general sweetness and unique personality.
I have received things from M that I’ve not been able to ask for or obtain from relationships with humans in my life at times. He has, to me, remained consistent, reliable, loyal, trusting, forgiving, unconditionally loving, playful, curious, devoted, and so much more. Being with him outside the house even reduces the intensity of my anxiety, and I become notably more relaxed and confident. He liberates me in a way I often cannot liberate myself.
I know my mental ill health has at times gotten in the way of me being the best owner I can be for my dogs, AND at the same time, I am pretty sure I would be a lot worse of without them.
Especially if I had to miss out on all the slobbery kisses and muddy cuddles they provide me with on a regular and much-needed basis!
HAPPY NATIONAL DOG DAY y’all!