I wanted to get a dog to help me with my depression. My husband doesn't like dogs, but over time I wore him down and he agreed and so Buster came into our lives.
Buster helps me with my depression in many ways.
I have to walk him for quite a long time at least twice a day. This means I get fresh air, exercise and over the years I have come to know my neighbours, and stop and chat to them sometimes too.
Exercise is key to staying fit and healthy and there are many findings around its positive benefit for mental health.
Feeling a sense of community is also a big tick for mental health.
I get to explore new areas with him, as well as make the effort to drive off to the woods or the beach. Being in nature also helps improve mental health.
Walking with Buster has meant I take more photos, which over time has led to an exhibition that I am really proud of, as well as employment from the council to shoot its events.
I meet my friends for a walk with Buster, rather than sitting in a coffee shop or at home. I don't drink - alcohol and depression are not a good mix - and I hate being in environments like pubs. Walking and talking leads to good conversations - there are natural pauses and the silence isn't awkward at all. Inviting people to walk with Buster and me is much easier than asking someone for a coffee.
At home Buster is a great companion, he senses when I am upset and he sits with me, will crawl onto my lap and even wraps himself around me in a great big dog hug. If I have fallen into an especially bad pit and am crying by myself he will go and get my husband Gavin, by batting him with his paw until Gavin takes off his headphones and hears me. Buster has even done the same when I have had an asthma attack.
Buster is crazy. He goes through life bouncing around like Tigger. He spins on the spot when I put his poo in the bin, barking in sheer exuberance and joy. He snarfles about in the undergrowth and tries to find all of the small furry creatures, yet never does because he is strangely oblivious to them. At home we do tricks together, and he does all of them with enthusiasm and joy. He is a real character! If we tell him off he sulks and throws himself down on the floor, when we talk to him he cocks his head and looks at us intensely. If he decides he is hungry he will get his dinner bowl and throw it at our feet. Everyone who meets him says how lovely he is. He makes me laugh at his antics.
He is a wonderful confidant, he listens patiently, never talks over me, doesn't judge and will always keep my secrets. As an added bonus he is warm and has lovely fur to stroke.
Buster isn't a trained 'therapy dog' but I really wish I could get him accredited so I could take him everywhere with me. He was even invited to a friend's wedding!