The dog days of depression

We recently bought a dog.  He is a Bernese Mountain Dog.  His name is Sebastian Augustus:

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Yes, he’s crazy cute.  Yes, we have an over-the-top approach to names.  Ask our children about that when they’re adults!  And yes, he will be a lot of work, cost money, etc., etc., etc.  I know.  Believe me I know.  We got him because we’ve always wanted a dog, because the kids wanted a dog, and because the timing and the price was right.

I have to admit, however, that I was a little taken aback by one of the side benefits of getting a dog.  I’ve read elsewhere that having an animal call help with depression.  Perhaps you’ve heard of service animals, that go into nursing homes or hospitals to help cheer up the sick.  I am beginning to wonder if we shouldn’t create a category of service animals for the clinically depressed.

What I have found thus far is that owning an animal has filled a niche that I didn’t know existed.  A dog just wants to be with you, loves unconditionally, and (despite some occasional poop) is generally pretty easy to care for.  I expect that will change somewhat as he gets bigger.  But right now, I’m enjoying things for what they are.  He’s helped me exercise, spend less time on the computer (always a good thing in my case), and has really lifted my mood in a very different way than all of my usual tricks.

So am I crazy?  How has your animal helped you?  How might this fit into a treatment plan for helping the clinically depressed?

-DMR

12 thoughts on “The dog days of depression”

  1. I have a cat and he's brilliant for depression and anxiety. He's a bit mad too so I can play with him to distract myself and he's always willing to climb on my lap for a cuddle. That purring, soft, warm ball is soooooooo comforting! And he does this weird forward-roll thing when he wants attention that always makes me laugh, along with watching him attempt (and fail) to catch birds.

    I'm not a dog person though. 😉

  2. Getting a dog about four months after the passing of my wife of 22 years has been a big plus for me…(even to this day!). You made a good move here! You are right- they follow you around.. they love you unconditionally, and they are always around when one feels down. This must be the reason that God created dogs!

  3. I'm with you 100%, as you well know. We've always been pet people. I've often commented about the joy of having animals around. An affectionate pet can be a real comfort and the joy they can bring is immeasurable. It's a First Article thing. Like so many other things, dogs are gifts from God for the delight of man. I'm glad you're enjoying your new friend.

  4. I'm with you 100%, as you well know. We've always been pet people. I've often commented about the joy of having animals around. An affectionate pet can be a real comfort and the joy they can bring is immeasurable. It's a First Article thing. Like so many other things, dogs are gifts from God for the delight of man. I'm glad you're enjoying your new friend.

  5. I bought a dog right after my wife of 20 years left me – and it really has been nice. They just want to be scratched, and seem to mop up all the crud you are feeling. I can see it Todd!

  6. Oh yeah….absolutely on, though I tend to like cats for depression. But there has even been several research studies that just the act of petting an animal has soothing yet stimulating effects on the brain, the endocrine system, and the immune system.

    "What I have found thus far is that owning an animal has filled a niche that I didn’t know existed. A dog just wants to be with you, loves unconditionally, and (despite some occasional poop) is generally pretty easy to care for"

    I had to laugh at that because I figured out Jeff was interested in me when I commented on a beautiful dog that I saw, and he said "Get a boyfriend, they are easier." I didn't know whether I was more in shock by the breeching of the subject or that he could think that a guy could be easier than a dog. 😀

  7. When I'm home, even if my family is out of the house, I'm never alone. Lucy is always attentive to my moods and my activities. She just wants to be with me, even when I'm cranky, moody, or sad. She's always happy and loves to play. As you once said: "She's a morning dog." I'd say she's an "anytime" dog. Whenever I want to go for a walk, she's ready. Whenever I get up in the middle of the night, she's with me. Cats can also be affectionate, but a dog is the best company hands-down.

  8. A dog is extremely helpful for depression because they live in the moment, don't hold grudges and don't obsess over things that they can't change anyway or worry about tomorrow….. they are God's little reminder/ gift to the depressed because they just love you and want to be with you unconditionally the same way the Lord wants to be with you.

  9. My husband and I have had a series of cats since just before our marriage, and they bring incredible joy to our lives. When I am physically ill, they make great companions. When I am depressed, I enjoy their love and affection, and giving affection to them helps take me out of myself.

  10. I used to manage a sober living home, where — though it was for people in recovery who are having a difficult time — I came to recognize that most were bipolar or depressives, (which I am as well). After a year of leaving my dog with the ex-wife, I was dying without him and brought him to live at the sober living home. People's reactions were astounding!! The number of people who fell in love with the dog and reported to me how much better he made them feel was nothing short of amazing. It almost created a fight each night to see whose room I'd let the dog sleep in. The dog, a large chocolate Lab, is absolutely my best friend. Opening my eyes in the morning and seeing his smiling face and tail wagging because he knows I am now attending to him, (i.e. knowing he is hungry) gives me an immediate sense of need and steers my mind away from what usually would be an early morning bout of anxiety about — whatever. My dog lives for love. He requires a little food and water and a toss of the ball or a walk, but love is at the top of his list. He has been miraculous at helping me all but eradicate my depression (combined with good drug therapy). You are right — family members should all consider getting their depressed member a dog. They are one of God's miracles.

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