How Pets Can Help Us to Heal From Depression
One of the pillars of healing from depression that I constantly talk about is reaching out for support. This is because human beings are social animals who are hard-wired for connection! But, we are not alone in this need for connection. All mammals share the need to emotionally bond with one another, because they give birth to live young. And this bonding can occur across species. Just look at the bonding that occurs between pets and their owners! Thus, your connection with your pets can help you to heal from depression.
In my support groups, I have had many members tell me, especially those who live alone, that their dogs and cats are like their children. I even worked with one man who was attached to his parrot. We’ve all heard the phrase that a dog is a man’s best friend. The following story shows how the bond between a person and his dog saved a life.
One day a new member whom I will call Tom showed up at my Monday support group. He drove up to the house in a BMW and walked in wearing a $3,000 suit and a Rolex watch. As a successful surgeon, he clearly was not lacking for material things,. Yet, as he told his story, I learned that he had become suicidally depressed when his fiancee broke off their engagement. Convinced that there was nothing left to live for, he decided to asphyxiate himself with carbon monoxide poisoning. However, before he could turn the ignition key of his car, he remembered that he had not fed his dog dinner. So, he got out of his car to feed his dog and then realized that if he died, no one would be there to care for his dog. It was then that he decided to get help.
It is safe to say that this dog saved this man’s life. Months later I met the dog who was an obnoxious mutt. But to Tom, he was a reason to live. Years later, a severely depressed group member heard me tell this story and decided to adopt his own dog. His therapist tells me that getting the dog has made a huge difference in his mental health.
Before I close, I wanted to tell you about a pet who has brought joy into my life. He is a Persian cat named Bruce. As you can see from the photo of Bruce at the top of the page and from his presence in the video, Bruce has a face only a mother can love. Yet, everyone who has spent time with Bruce has been charmed by him. He is loved and adored by all of our neighbors and has become a beam of light to our neighborhood.
There are tens of thousands of Bruces across the country, sharing love and joy with their owners. They are the silent emissaries of light who bring much-needed love to many of us who suffer from depression.