Anyone who has experienced any kind of depression or severe clinical depression and had a dog during that time, knows intuitively that dogs are not only wonderful loyal companions, but the love they have for their owners are very pure and have the effect of easing any kind of psychological pain. People with these experiences and I am one, don’t really need the evidence of any kind of research to verify this fact.
During the period of my life when I was clinically depressed, I owned a dog that I can safely say contributed significantly to my well-being. I got him when he was just a puppy, and I watched that Springer Spaniel grow up to be an adult dog. Thank goodness, I had places to take him where he could run and exercise because he had such boundless energy.
Once he got lost, and I called the dog pound and they said he had come right to their door. They were located about 3 miles from my house, so I considered it a miracle when I called them after he was lost for two weeks and he was there. It was in the middle of winter in Upstate New York, so I was not surprised when I got him home, he ate and drank water but most of all slept! He was tired from wandering around in the cold and snow.
Regarding the recent research, it is always good to read that science backs up what we already know intuitively. Many modern day mental health facilities offer what is called, “pet therapy”. At least once per week, dog(s) interact with patients and help them in their rehabilitation. It is well known that patients look forward to the time when “pet therapy” will take place.
In the Journal of Psychiatric Research, a recently published article reported that those with severe depression with low rates of recovery and not easily treated with medication, responded positively to adopting a pet.
At this point in time, It is a field of new research, and more needs to be done with larger populations with better control groups. Not everyone with severe depression may respond to “pet therapy”, however those who have an affinity to having a pet may be the best candidates.
One of the symptoms of severe depression is the feeling of deep isolation and loneliness. Since pets, and I think it is safe to say especially dogs, enjoy being close to the important people in their lives the bond of warmth and companionship they give is very healing in itself.
It is not by accident that children with disabilities are now being allowed to bring in dogs to school as companions to help through their days. They may need a doctor’s prescription for this to occur, but this only attests to how our society is further understanding the benefits animal companions give us.
The late President George Bush, Sr. was known to have a tremendous companion in his service dog, Sully. The Bush family has made it known that the 2 year old service dog, whose picture was laid by President Bush’s coffin, will be missed by the family. The dog was trained to lay his head on President Bush’s lap, and this posture will certainly be repeated and will comfort veterans who have lost limbs at Walter Reed Hospital.