Hounds of love: how dogs helped me and my anxiety
Will explains how his pet dogs have helped him cope with anxiety attacks.
Dog lover Will, has suffered from anxiety since he was ten years old.
I have had anxiety since I was ten years old. I remember one of my first attacks happening on a school trip to France when I was in year five. I don’t recall much except for one teacher telling me not to worry so much about feeling like I was going to die as she was much older than me – something that did not help too much. Since then, I have had at least one anxiety attack each day. It’s just the way it is for me.
"Just the simple touch of his fur was enough to leave me feeling much calmer than I was before."
Around the time of my trip to France, my parents picked up our first dog. He was a black labrador that I loved dearly, and that I only lost recently at the amazing age of 15. I remember him being a great help when I was feeling afraid or anxious, as just the simple touch of his fur was enough to leave me feeling much calmer than I was before.
Over the next decade and a half, I confided in him more than I did anyone else. He knew my secrets, my fears, everything. In fact, there are things I told him that I will never tell anyone else, because he was my best friend. It wasn’t just because of the oxytocin (sometimes called the love hormone) that was released when I hugged him, or when he came to me when I cried, it’s also because he never judged me for feeling the way I did, or acting out because of it.
"While the medication worked to help calm my mind, nothing was ever as effective as the loving touch of my dog."
At school, teachers were less than sympathetic to my plight, and it was never easy having anxiety at school. I was prescribed diazepam when I was 16. I believe that no one that age should receive a prescription like that without trying something else first. While the medication worked to help calm my mind, nothing was ever as effective as the loving touch of my dog.
When I moved away from my parents, there was a massive emptiness in my life without him there. My anxiety was worse for it, and even the medication was only able to take the edge off. Visiting him was always a welcome experience, but it wasn’t the same as living with him. I had cats, and I loved them, but they just weren’t the same as my boy back home.
A few years later, my cats had passed away, and I was without a pet once more. My labrador was getting on in years, and I knew he would not be around forever. That’s when I got my current dog. I picked him up as a puppy, and I knew he was meant for me. This little ball of fur that was sure to help pull me out of my darkest moments. I brought him home, and we bonded instantly. He even got on with my lab when we went to visit.
My little fluff ball is one of the most sensitive beings I know. As soon as my mind starts to race and I can feel that ball of anxiety rising, he is right there and ready to face it with me. He can spend hours just spread out next to me while I hug him, and stroking his fur is incredibly helpful. Most of all, he gave my daily life routine and purpose.
"As a high energy dog, I knew I had to take him out for a few hours a day, and the difference in how I felt was amazing. I had more energy, was happier, and life didn’t seem as dark and crushing as it had before."
Working from home led me to put unwanted weight on, and my dog meant that I needed to get out there and walk – not just for me, but also for him. As a high energy dog, I knew I had to take him out for a few hours a day, and the difference in how I felt was amazing. I had more energy, was happier, and life didn’t seem as dark and crushing as it had before.
Yes, I still get an anxiety attack every day, but I feel more able to overcome them. My dog gave me a new lease on life, a routine, and a sense of pride knowing that I was taking good care of him. In many ways, he has carried on the legacy of my labrador, and will continue to do so for many years to come.
I have channelled my personal experience positively and wrote a very long and detailed article titled: How Dogs Can Help with Mental Health – Mind Boosting Benefits of Dog Ownership so please grab a cuppa and take a read or share with someone you love.
Thanks for reading.
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