Dogs need mental health support as much as we do
Rosie blogs about how rescue dogs have helped her cope with anxiety and she had done likewise for them.
Since being a young child I have always loved dogs. Their unconditional love has played a big part in my life and story. It started with Judy the fox ferrier, then Bess the bearded collie. Then we got Toby the border collie our first ever rescue dog. My grandparents and Bess had passed away all very close together a few years before this. The grief was really hard on my mental health and Toby was a light in the darkness after a traumatic time.
I’ve struggled with my mental health since I was a teenager – I overthink and am over emotional with low self-esteem. I also have dyspraxia, a condition that affects fine and gross motor skills, balance, organisation skills and memory. Day to day life takes so much more effort and energy when you’re dyspraxic with things people take for granted.
I experienced a lot of bullying which led to me developing severe social anxiety and depression. I struggled with the fast pace of conversations in the classroom and people never had the time or patience to get to know me or to see that I had anything to offer. The loneliness was crippling and it made me feel unvalued and the unlikable option. I was never invited to anything and my self-esteem and confidence became nothing. I just wanted to be given a chance.
So did Toby. He had a difficult past of mistreatment and was very anxious around other dogs and about anything to do with his neck, legs and paws. When he came home to us he learnt what love was and with time and patience grew into an incredible dog with a wonderful character.
“Toby was often admired for his handsome looks and smiley face which in turn helped me talk to people.”
It was a delight to see him playing with his ball or running into the sea. Those little moments gave me joy when I felt low. Those images will live with me forever. He was often admired for his handsome looks and smiley face, which in turn helped me talk to people and gave me a boost too.
When he passed away in the pandemic it hit my family hard. Due to restrictions I was unable to go home for many months and it was anxiety provoking and a lonely time for me. Toby was one of the things that helped me stay connected to others. For him to pass in these circumstances was so tough.
“Jasper was able to run off lead in designated “dog parks” for dogs who suffer with anxiety.”
That’s when Jasper, a four-year-old rescue dog arrived. Jasper was an anxious collie cross who hadn’t seen much of the world. It was a big scary place for him, and he had so much to learn, he didn’t even know how to play. He learnt what freedom was and was able to run off lead in designated “dog parks” for dogs who suffer with anxiety or who may find life a bit more challenging.
And this makes me think how important it is for humans to have supportive, understanding people in their lives. For many people it can be a huge wait and a battle to get the right support and their needs met. Some simply never get it.
Together we are facing the world, one step, one treat, and one cuddle at a time.
Dogs need kindness too
Just as every rescue dog is different every person who struggles with their mental health is different. It’s important to get to know someone as an individual.
When you struggle with your mental health a little bit of kindness, empathy and patience can go a long way. The same is so true for rescue dogs. So often we get dogs to help us through difficult times. In March 2021, the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association reported that a total 3.2 million households in the UK have acquired a pet since the start of the pandemic. Many were brought to help us through our struggles with lockdown. And it’s easy to forget that they can also suffer from anxiety; that they need our support just as much as we need theirs.
As we head back to the fast paced, busy world of normality it’s important to remember this – Nobody and no pet dog should be left to struggle with their mental health alone.
Information & Support
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Blogs and stories can show that people with mental health problems are cared about, understood and listened to. We can use it to challenge the status quo and change attitudes.