After his mental health took a dive, Paul began researching whether a furry friend might help him get back on track.
I’ve always been obsessed with dogs; I’m not sure where it came from exactly, but they just make me happy. All I wanted was a dog to snuggle up to on the sofa, take to the local cafe, and work with a pooch asleep by my feet. A simple ambition, but it’s my ambition.
I had a few bad run-ins in a row and things were not looking good for a long time - my physical health took a dive, and my mental health went with it. I started contemplating really negative thoughts. During 2016 I had some major surgery that didn’t go as I’d have liked. I saw a medic of one shape or another on more days than not that year. I was in a lot pain a lot of the time, and my mental health was going from bad to worst.
A few months after my operation, I decided I’d finally do something for me - I’d get my dog. My physical health wasn’t ‘there’ quite yet, but I could start researching, and start looking into the right breeds, the costs, what I’d need - not just ‘pie in the sky’, but the realities of it. It gave me a focus.
Fast forward and I’m sitting in the passenger seat of the car, on the way home from a farm in Kent, with a little fur ball in my lap.
So, what has having a dog done for me?
The Love Thing. It’s a great feeling to come home and see a wagging tail that’s so pleased to see you. You truly care for them back. I know I’m anthropomorphizing things here, but I can imagine him thinking “Mate, where you been? I missed you dude” when I’ve gone out for a whole 30 seconds. And when I wake up by him jumping on my bed, it just starts my day right. I don’t feel like I need to be tucked in all day. When you’re lounging around watching TV, it can be so comforting.
The Responsibility Thing. You can still have your ‘off days’, but you’re forced into feeding them, walking them, cleaning up after them - it makes you feel productive. No matter what you did all day, you still achieved. Plus there’s the knowing that this little fur ball needs you which makes you feel useful. There are other needs too; you will have to pick up poop, mop up pee, pay vet bills and insurance etc. I find having this responsibility means I’m less focused on my struggles.
The Pride Thing. When Nuks learns a new trick, I get such a sense of pride. It starts off with The Positions (sit, stand, etc.), but then every new trick you both learn to do it’s another bonding experience. I know to others some of them must be the dog equivalent to a ‘painting on the fridge’. It’s great fun and, I’ll admit , frustrating at times - like the best video game. We’ve got a few certificates now, and I hope to go for a Pets As Therapy qualification soon too.
The Social Thing. When you’ve got a dog, there is like a secret social club. You suddenly get talking to all sorts of people. There’s the dog-clubs, puppy-parties, training-clubs etc - but there is also general people up and down your street. People nod and smile at you, but you also can get into long conversations. The pooch is a great talking point, it starts off about the dog, but they can easily turn into 15-20 minute conversations. People just seem to open up when you’ve got a dog - and visa-versa too. It’s a fantastic way of meeting people.
Physical Health. The daily walking can help me organise my thoughts. You’re generally more active; whether you’re bending over to take something from its mouth, picking it up or chasing after it. It’s helped me become more aware of my environment, it’s taken me back to nature when I take him on his daily walks.
I’d like to end this by saying that if getting a dog isn’t right for you - if your living arrangements are unsuitable, if you can’t look after it properly - then don’t do it. Not quite yet, not until the time is right. There’ll always be more dogs, but you’d be gutted if you had to give it up. Research it properly, from breeds to needs. Ask around, join social network groups. It’s a big commitment. Maybe even see if anyone will let you join them on their walks.
Getting Nuks has done so much for me, I can’t write it all down in one go…. but I’d say without a doubt - getting him was one of the best things I’ve done.