I have two dogs, a large Bernese Mountain dog named Hope and a mixed breed rescue named Bailey. Hope is twelve. Most Bernese Mountain dogs live to eight to ten years. She is still kicking it. The rescue, Bailey, is two years old so she still has a lot of puppy in her. My family encouraged me to get a second dog so when I lose Hope (Heaven help me), I will have another dog I can still love on.
Though I do not want kids, I am a proud pet parent of my girls. I love dogs. Maybe you love cats or ferrets or fish or guinea pigs – all excellent choices. Whatever makes you happy is the point. Having a pet that you love and you believe loves you back is great for those of us that live with bipolar disorder. Not everyone has a good support system, but a pet’s love is unconditional. My babies do not hold it against me when I am manically irritable. I have been known to stand in the kitchen slamming drinking glasses on the floor. They watch me with a puzzled look, but when I am done and clean up my mess, life goes back to normal.
*Here are some things that having a pet can do for us:
- The companionship an animal offers can relieve anxiety and stress.
- Pets are a great motivator for people. Dogs may encourage an owner to get exercise through play and walks or jogs. As we know, exercise is a great way to fight depression.
- Pets can relax their owners. Petting an animal, sitting next to, or playing with an animal can provide relaxation for us. When I am very anxious I pet one of my dogs, and it is true, it helps me to feel more calm and relaxed.
- Having a pet gives our day purpose. We have to feed them, if we have a dog we may need to let them out and in throughout the day. We must get out of bed. If you do not have a backyard we must walk your dog during potty time. And, after all, we need to just give our pet attention because if we do not, who will? Caring for a pet gives us a sense of achievement and builds our confidence.
- Pets provide us great companionship. They help stave off loneliness. We get to share our day with another living creature. Our critters share our daily routines. For example, I feed my dogs at the same time every day. For those of who live alone, our pets can provide security. On my front door there is a sign that reads, ‘BEWARE OF DOG,’ their barks alert me and I hope would scare people away.
- Pets can provide socialization. Walking our dog and going to the dog park allows people to talk to us about our dog and us theirs. These conversations can lead to small talk and, who knows we may make a new friend. The more friends we have help us deal with our bipolar disorder.
- Overall, pets rule.
Here is my story of Hope, who turns twelve on the eight of October, just around the corner. I was in a dark place. As I have mentioned, following my suicide attempt I fell into a depression unlike any I had ever known. My parents encouraged me to get a dog. I think they intuitively knew some of the reasons I listed above for having a dog. I researched dogs and besides the excessive shedding (you have no idea), a Bernese Mountain dog’s temperament seemed perfect for me. I named her Hope because that is what I needed in my life at the time. I am glad I did because over the years she has provided me with hope.
If you do not have a pet I highly encourage you to get one. If a puppy is too much, there are tons of dogs and cats that need homes from rescue groups and pounds. There is a pet available for all of us. Best of luck finding your new companion.
*Some information available from the Mental Health Foundation