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Dogs & Depression

Feb 20, 2008
Though it is not something of which I am particularly proud, I struggled with major depression since age thirteen. It may be even further back than that, that is my first memory of "feeling different". I am now fifty three.

I had not a clue at the time I was suffering from any type of mental illness, and even if I had discovered it was, it would have been hidden, as, in the polite society of rural Mississippi, at the time, one did not see a therapist or psychiatrist and remain in society. He or she was hidden in the closet. Today things have changed and there are many modern- day state-of-the-art recovery programs and mental health clinics in the region. Alas, mum is still the word. I now live in southern California, where, at social functions, therapy and recovery are a normal topic of conversation and deemed appropriate.

It was not until late in life, when I discovered a stray dog named "Thor" that I learned about alternative therapy. I had often heard that owning an animal can relieve depression and even lower blood pressure, but the dramatic changes were yet to be seen for the first few months of owning Thor. I noticed I wanted to get out more and walk him, as he loved that activity. This in itself lifted my depression. A long walk can, in fact, increase endorphins in the system.

This mutt loved people and helped me open up to them and they to me. People will open up to a cute dog faster than they will a human, hence they open up to the human as well. Thor loved people. I had owned dogs in the past, but Thor was my first rescue dog. The jury is out whether he rescued me or I rescued him. I did not adopt him from a shelter, but surely would have had I found him at one. He showed up in the rural Mississippi woods with a pack of two other dogs. He was the sickest of them, obviously abused and/or hit by a vehicle as he limped, and was a matted ball of fur. A vet friend took him home and put him on drips, shaved him, brought him to my house, permanently.

I immediately began feeding Thor the b.a.r.f diet. (bones and raw food). I put him on the same herbal tinctures I was taking. He never had another vet bill for a decade and lived to be nearly twenty two. He had ten very happy years as did I; mostly depression-free. Both of us were quite depressed when we found each other. He passed away nearly a month ago today. I continue to grieve over Thor but feel soon I will be ready for another rescue dog. I will visit the shelter. It is not completely selfless; I understand fully now the meaning of "they do much more for us than we do for them). A rescued dog remembers. He/she gives unconditional love and we get that gift to pass on to other people. I can't begin to tell you the difference in the way I am treated now by other people, and, the way I treat them. I do my best to do what Thor taught me; that is, love them unconditionally. He saw me as one of God's creatures; to him I was a god, and now I see all living creatures as part of God's creation. I never was that religious and am not now. But how can I not be spiritual. I am not a believer in miracles, but anyone who has suffered depression, will understand, when I say, this is as close to a miracle as miracles come for a person battling this horrid disease.

Rick London is a writer, cartoonist, and owner of online stores. Many of his cartoon products are dog-related and a percentage of each sale goes to benefit various animal causes. He is also the founder of the Internet's top cartoon site, Londons Times Cartoons.
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