May is Mental Health Month. This month is dedicated to raising an awareness of mental health issues and educating the public.
There are so many topics when it comes to mental health…the We Care People decided this month to focus on animals and pets and how they affect one’s mental health. I decided to write about my own experiences here.
We have two dogs, Atticus and Gatsby. (Can you tell I was a literature major?) They are as different as can be. They are also both rescue dogs, though.
Atticus was rescued from a puppy mill, and Gatsby was being sent to a kill shelter. I shudder whenever I think about these things. How can people treat animals this way? I know, overpopulation, blah, blah, blah. No excuse, in my opinion.
Atticus is part poodle. He’s little, with curly, black fur, and gray accents, like on his eyebrows. He’s adorable, and a great dog. Gatsby is part Australian shepherd. He’s light brown/tan, with dark brown features around his nose and ears, and medium-sized. Both dogs are full grown.
We haven’t had Gatsby too long, but I can’t picture my life without these dogs. They’re part of our family. Andy’s the real dog person, as when we got together, I’d never owned a dog. We had cats growing up. I was a cat person. I like cats because you have to work for their affection…with dogs, you don’t have to do a thing, and they’re all over you. I heard someone on a TV show one time call dogs “the whores of the animal kingdom.”
So I wasn’t used to this complete show of affection from an animal from the second I walk in the door until…forever. At first it annoyed me. They are so happy to see me when I come home. They follow me everywhere. They look up at me expectantly, with big, wondering, sad eyes, waiting to be petted or played with.
I wasn’t used to any of this.
It was, at first, major culture shock for me. I was convinced I was a cat person and I would never make the transition to dog person.
I was wrong.
I now look forward to coming home and being greeted by two furry creatures who have never been happier to see me. I don’t get that too often from people, (which is one of many reasons why I now like dogs better than people) and it feels nice. I am just as happy to see them. I love to give them treats and watch their tails go crazy with anticipation as I hand them out. It doesn’t take much to make a dog happy.
As far as helping my mental health…when I’m in one of my deep, dark depressions, it’s nice to lie with my dogs and pet them…it’s comforting. I don’t like talking when I’m depressed, and I don’t have to with dogs. They’re there as a source of comfort. I find it soothing to have them curl up next to me. They’re so innocent and good-hearted…so different from many people you come across in life. People will let you down, people will hurt you and break your heart, people will emotionally scar you for life.
Dogs will love you.
I love showing my dogs affection, I love playing with them, I love going for walks with them. It’s gratifying to take care of an animal. They fulfill me in ways people never could. Their love is unwavering, unconditional. Atticus and Gatsby put me in a good mood when I’m down. They give me something to look forward to, every day. So do my children and husband, but the dogs really add to it. Our kids adore the dogs, too, and these dogs are very tolerant of them. (They can be a little rough with animals. Have you read Of Mice and Men?)
I don’t know what I’d do without these dogs.
They’ve changed all of our lives, for the better. They make us smile when we don’t feel like it, cheer us up and are there for us when we’ve had a bad day, relax us when we’re stressed, and simply love us.
And I simply love them.