Thursday, May 6, 2021

Mental Health and Furry Friends

Alexia and Ullr, a black and white Siberian husky, stand before a mural of the word LOVE painted in with flowers as Alexia listens to The Mars Strain through her red Beats headphones.

I love stats, numbers, scientific proof. And I can happily report that in a study done through the University of York and the University of Lincoln showed that pets helped us emotionally deal with the past year’s lockdown by 90%. Their findings also showed a link between how attached people were to their pets and mental health. Also, the UK Mental Health Foundation reported 87% of people believed their pet improved their wellbeing. 

Those are some good stats on pets and mental health. And speaking of…it’s mental health awareness month in America! 

I face my own struggles with mental health and even though I know scientifically what’s going on in my body it doesn’t change the fact that I feel it. And I’ve found that for myself, I can only talk about it when I’m coming out of the deep. I only want to see others and talk to people when I’m past the worst. Which is why I'm able to talk about it a bit today.

If you’re struggling and can’t bring yourself to talk to anyone—it’s okay. As long as you are able to tell yourself you are not alone. Because you’re not. There are so many of us at different stages of dealing with mental health struggles. Please remember that and that when you’re ready there are so many of us you can reach out to for help. Having dealt with my own and some struggles that my children have I am able to look back at my time as a manager and see flags and opportunities I missed. I wish I could go back in time with the knowledge and experience I have now. Which is why I like the premise behind the Mental Health America Peer Program. They have people who have gone through challenges reaching a hand back to help those coming along behind, not just a doctor or motivational speaker who has no first hand experience. 

baby Ullr, black and white Siberian husky, laying on his back twisted to the side into a backwards C, beside his water bowl.
Back to my stats! And back to my favorite way of coping with depression and anxiety: my furry sidekick, Ullr. 

Ullr the husky pup, black and white, on his back twisted into a backwards C, paws in the air, as his piercing blue eyes stare at the camera.

He’s a goofus. He’s uncoordinated at times (like when he’s sprinting and faceplates because he’s going too fast). He loves to steal my garden veggies (I didn’t get the chance to pickle any cucumbers last season and he ate all the peas). He’s definitely not my Loki boy who always knew when I needed him to sit quietly beside me—I still miss him dearly and will always have his paw print on my heart. 

But Ullr is mine—and he loves me. That’s why we have pets, isn’t it? It doesn’t matter how terrible of a day we’ve had. It doesn’t matter how stressed out we are or how many tears we shed. It doesn’t even matter if we have enough time for them. They’re there, like Ullr is there at my side day after day. 

Ullr may not be quiet and stoic, but he makes me laugh—which is probably what I need more of in my life right now. I guess someone upstairs knew I needed a knucklehead like Ullr right now, and I’m thankful. He’s also incredibly soft, which, if you’re the owner of a dog or cat you know, is incredibly soothing, and he’s a husky so snow is a magnet for him and he makes me have adventures outside every day. He even came with me to celebrate the release of The Mars Strain! He loved it—he got to walk and sniff new territory. Win win!

How about you? Would you count yourself in the roughly 90% that say they’re better off with a pet?

Ullr, the black and white Siberian husky, trotting down the trail surrounded by pine trees.