I have a dog.
Lots of people have dogs. Most of them are called things like Spot, or King or “Here, Boy”. They’re spotty Dalmatians, flat-faced Rotties, alert Alsatians, perky Jack Russells, yappy little floor mops, podgy Pig dogs, loyal Labradors and trusty Heelers. Or so we say. Most of them are bitzers. But the average household dog is loved.
My dog is a black dog. He is with me everywhere I go. I have what is known as treatment resistant Depression.
My journey has been a strange one. I find myself standing amidst two different worlds on a regular basis. In one world I stand with my black dog, visiting a doctor. In the other I stand with the doctors and other health workers trying to keep my dog out of the way while I see others who come to me, some trailing their own black dogs. I am also a Mental Health worker. In fact, I was a mental health worker before my black dog came to join me. While I had been an empathic one before this, the shift in perspective gave a lot of insight to the way that I worked.
I will always be glad not to have been in the workforce at the point in my journey when my symptoms of depression became so severe that I couldn’t function. It was a spectacular crash. I was – it seemed – irretrievably tangled in this black dog’s unsecured lead to a point where I had tripped and was unable to get up again. Mongrel dog. As it was with a lot of time, hard work, patience and medication I was able to get untangled – but I’m stuck with the dog and the lead.
More time, more and more review and adjustments to medications by my Psychiatrist, a lot of work with a Clinical Psychologist, an excellent GP, a supportive supervisor and manager at work, a couple of great friends and a magnificently supportive family behind me and eight years later I have my black dog much better trained.
With a lot of time, effort, meds, bucks, sweat and tears I have trained my dog to walk at heel. He does not run riot anymore. He is not a puppy. He is still a challenge and will always need a close eye. There will always be times when he moves unexpectedly and I stumble on his lead or get pulled in a different direction. There will always be places that are not as dog-friendly as others, even if it’s not deliberate. When making plans I must plan not only for my needs, but for those of my dog. They can be costly in all senses of the word. They can be inconvenient. They can seem impossible.
But if I plan for him, I can plan for me. And I can do all manner of things.
He is not my pet. He is my responsibility. I am never without him.
He is my black dog.