Getting a golden retriever has saved my sanity.
I’ll just say it, “I struggle with anxiety.”
And I’m not alone. If you have anxiety, you’re not alone either.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, roughly 18% of the American population suffer from an anxiety disorder.1 And the trend is rising – more people every year are affected by mental illnesses.
Although we wish there was an easy way to combat this, let’s face it. Life is “ruff,” and today’s world just gets more and more difficult (seemingly impossible) to navigate.
Enter golden retriever.
Ahem, let me rephrase that: in bounces a super fluffy ball of love with a tongue sticking out the side of his mouth, a wet nose, and a tail that can’t stop wagging to see you. That’s my golden retriever.
A dog is a miracle worker for mental health.
As someone who has struggled with anxiety for almost a decade, getting Meeko has lowered my stress and anxiety levels by a noticeable amount. He brings peace to an otherwise chaotic world.
Love Heals All Things
A dog brings a limitless, unconditional source of everything you need in your heart, but especially love.
A dog’s love is unlike anything else in the world; it is pure, loyal, unselfish, unqualified, and absolute.
It is knowing that you’ll never be alone. You will always have someone to talk to, cuddle with, kiss you, and cry with. It is knowing that you will always be loved. And really, it is more than knowing you will always be loved, it is feeling that you will always be loved.
Holding Meeko’s big, fluffy paw elicits a feeling of pure contentment in me. And lying beside his warm, fluffy body and cuddling this big teddy bear creates some of the most joyful moments of my life.
Knowing this big creature whose heart is the kindest, most innocent thing in the world, knowing he loves me makes me know that I am enough.
And it goes both ways; being with my dog and bringing joy to his life is enough. Sometimes when I think I’m spending too much time playing outside with him or baking him cakes (more on that later), I think that there could be no better cause than to make him happy. He’ll only be with us for a short part of our lives, and he deserves the best!
“My dog does this amazing thing where he just exists and makes my whole life better because of it.”
Girl’s Best Friend (or Man’s Best Friend)
A big part of a dog’s love is his companionship.
Pet therapy and animal therapy are real things in our society; they bring in comfort dogs after tragedies like the Parkland shooting, and, I mean, goat yoga – need I say more?
Having a golden retriever is like having your personal therapy dog. Many true “therapy dogs” are golden retrievers, utilized for their natural good temperaments.
I talk to Meeko all the time. And he listens. When I’m stressed or angry or just plain sad, he’s there for me.
Goldens are incredibly intuitive by nature. Meeko knows exactly what to do – sometimes he just sits with me for as long as it takes, sometimes he licks the tears off my face, and sometimes he puts both his giant paws on my shoulders, looks into my eyes with his big brown ones, and gives me a hug.
I used to joke with my husband that my old dog was my best friend instead of him. He scoffed, but I told him that when my husband becomes as dependable as my dog, then he will become my best friend.
If you want to know who loves you more, your wife or your dog, try locking them in the trunk of your car for an hour. Which one is happy to see you when you let them out?
Laughter Is the Best Medicine
I dare you to watch a puppy discovering (and chasing) his tail and not crack a smile. I dare you to watch this video of Meeko’s zoomies and not laugh!
Dogs ALWAYS can put a smile on your face. They live their lives full of joy! Have you ever seen a dog’s innocent happiness as he explores a riverbed, or discovers what butterflies are? Do you get jealous when your dog excitedly bounds up to new people and makes friends because everyone loves them? Dogs live their lives day-to-day and always make the most of it. Their happiness and joy is SO contagious!
Enjoy life through them! All the time, my dog teaches me new lessons – things as simple as stopping to smell the roses, or roll around in the grass and enjoy nature!
What’s more, dogs are ALWAYS good for a laugh. If my dog isn’t doing a barrel roll from running too fast at his toy, he’s being super sly and stealing his brother’s toy, or smushing his face up against the window to bark at the neighbors.
Dogs are the BEST comedians – you can’t make this stuff up!
Lean On Me When You’re Not Strong
A golden retriever is ALWAYS there for you. I can’t think of anything else that will always be there for you, and always be good for you (although my husband is pretty close). Not even chocolate, or cheese, or ice cream. Or anti-anxiety medicine.
You know what the side effects are of getting a golden? Too many puppy kisses, and you might get hit in the face with their ever-wagging tail.
Really Important Sidenote:
Now, I don’t mean to push anyone to *try* getting a dog for their mental health (although it will probably work) – dogs are lifelong commitments. They are family, and they’re a huge responsibility. Only get a dog if you will be there for him FOR LIFE, no takebacks, no excuses.
But if you’re considering getting a dog and suffer from anxiety, I can assure that there WILL be a positive outcome.
If you’re on the fence, you can try fostering a dog too. Shelters are always looking for good fosters, and you can help save a dog’s life this way!
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1 Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Understand the Facts