I don’t need to tell you all the reasons your mental health might be socially distancing itself in 2020. Even before now, with what feels like an annual cry of ‘cancel this year, it's the worst’, the world can be exhausting, right?
It had been a particularly crappy day. Some toxic combo of worst-case scenario thoughts mixed with obsessively absorbing too much news, I expect. Anxious friends, I know you hear me. In short: I was not present. I was lost in the dark woods of my mind, tangled in imaginary spirals and worsening worries.
Then I came home, and opened my front door to a snout so excited to smell me that it pushed its way through the gap. I was treated to a twirling, wagging, bumping fifty-five kilograms of hound as I forged my way in. And finally, sitting on the kitchen floor, face-to-face with my favourite boy, my big, Bernese Mountain Dog, I sighed. “I’m sad,” I told him, maybe out loud, maybe not. “And I’m worried I can’t fix my problems and that everyone hates me.” He blinked at me, big eyes locked in mine, beaming smile unwavering, and lifted a heavy paw which he plonked upon my shoulder. “To hell with them,” he said, maybe out loud, maybe not. “I love you.”
I'm not a therapist. And my massive, floppy, mountain dog, with his kind face and unconditional love, is too silly and disobedient to qualify as a therapy dog. But here are five ways I believe a hound in the house can help with mental health:
1. A paw to push you outside
Having a dog means you have a reason to get out of the house and into the wild on a daily basis. Whether that’s in a small park or a huge, wintery woodland, it gets you walking, moving, and breathing.
2. Be-present playtime
It’s hard to be lost in your thought traps when a coffee table-sized dog hurtles at you with a soft toy dangling from his mouth. A pup that wants to play is a great bridge back from your anxious mind to the here and now.
3. Mums at the school gate
I've never chatted to so many people in my town until after I became a dog owner. As a person with anxiety, that might sound daunting, but interactions with other dog parents are almost always pleasant and succinct, fawning over each other’s fur babies and then going on our merry way, and it can help fuse small social connections. Online doggie groups are also a great way to click over a shared interest.
4. No judgements here
When I’m low, I’ll find things to feel bad about. A big dog is a sidekick who loves you with zero judgement. He, or she, will lie on your feet like a weighted blanket when things feel tough, or gaze at you lovingly in the shower when you feel unperfect. (And by the way, you are perfect ♡)
5. You’re not alone
Taking care of a hound, who will remind you to eat and get out of the house, and to eat more, and to also give him lots of food, please, can be good satisfaction for the soul. And while he’s leaning against you, salivating over your bacon sandwich, it’s okay to realise you’re leaning on him too. A dog is company, and you can feel less lonely to have your happy guardian by your side.
They say, and I agree, that living with, chatting with, or interacting with a dog may not be a cure but can be a boost to mental health. I had a family member in hospital last year and the ward had a visiting puppy to scamper between the beds giving weary patients something new to smile at.
So while any a dog of any style can be a welcome addition to your wellbeing, for me, the heavier the paw, the bigger the helping hand.
About A Season in the Snow
Alice bright has a great life. She has a job she adores, a devoted family and friends she’d lay down her life for. But when tragedy strikes, she finds her whole world turned upside down.
Enter, Bear, a fluffy, loveable – and rapidly growing – puppy searching for a home. Bear may be exactly what Alice needs to rekindle her spark, but a London flat is no place for a mountain dog, and soon Alice and Bear find themselves on a journey to the snow-topped mountains of Switzerland in search of a new beginning.
Amidst the warming log fires, cosy cafes and stunning views, Alice finds her heart slowly beginning to heal. But will new friends and a charming next door neighbour be enough to help Alice fall in love with life once more?
Filled with winter markets, falling snow and heart-warming seasonal romance, this is the perfect festive treat.