Have you ever had just one of those days? You wake up on the wrong side of the bed, things just don’t go your way, and well, you don’t know why. Perhaps it is because you are sick. Perhaps it is because you had a long week at work. Or, perhaps, you just don’t feel right. So you talk to someone that you think cares. You talk to someone that you think maybe knows how you feel. But they can’t talk back. Your dog becomes your therapist, and is constantly on call.
For me, as I have been battling depression for most of my life, dogs have been my lifeline, and it seemed that each one of them had no trouble being my therapist. But did they? Did I not realize the toll that my depression and anxiety was taking on them?
If not for my rescue dog, Peanut Butter Brickle, I may have never thought of this. Brickle to me is what you may call…my heart. He eats, sleeps and breathes…me. I look at him and wonder sometimes how I deserve to have this dog in my life. And the answer is that I don’t.
For every moment that I spend worrying, he worries too. For every moment that I am sad, he is sadder. For each and every moment that I am depressed, he seems to feel it a hundred times more. And I hate that. At first, I wondered why he got so many stomach aches, or why he seemed so tired. I was so busy worrying about my self, that I did not take into account that he was trying to take my pain away. And in his attempt to do so, he was willing to feel everything that I was. And it was making him sick. I was making him sick.
For my other rescue dog Digby, I know that he cares for me. But he has the ability to disconnect from my sadness, leave me alone, and take a nap.
For Brickle, he can’t seem to do this. And as one of my bad days hit me again, and I looked at him, I wondered.
Was I putting too much pressure on my dog? Was I the problem here? How selfish was I being? How could I deal with my depression in an effective way that would not harm my dog? Because I was harming him.
If you have ever went thru something in your life, or you deal with chronic mental health issues, your emotions may seem uncontrollable. For me, I do sometimes feel like this. I start obsessing on never having human children, on financial mistakes, on life mistakes. I start worrying about all of the wonderful shelter animals we have met on the road. And it overwhelms me. But I know one thing above all else. I love my Brickle. And I AM putting too much pressure on him. So yesterday? Well, I decided that enough was enough. Tomorrow? I may not be as strong. But all I can control is today. And I will not allow my emotions to reflect on my face. If I have to step outside to cry, I will. If I have take a drive, I will. We all say we would do anything for our dogs. But would we really?
Some of us who have battled with anxiety or depression may not realize how serious it is. Some of us have been dealing with it our whole lives. Sometimes, on some of my bad days, I realize I am frustrated. Even with my dogs. I may pull their leashes a little tighter. Or I may have a shorter temper when they act up. And they do act up. But on my happy days, I deal with them differently. And there is no excuse to put this type of pressure on my dogs. I can control my emotions. They can’t.
I believe that being a dog parent come with an extreme amount of responsibility, sometimes even more than having human children. Why? Because unlike human children, dogs cannot speak up for themselves. They do not have free will most of the time. And they rely solely on us. We have invited them into our world, and it is up to us to treat them like the individuals that they are. And for me, being a dog parent comes with growth, and ways to improve.
As different as Brickle and Digby are, so are all of the other dogs I have had in my life. They have each taught me something, and have made me a better person along the way.
For Brickle, he has taught me that perhaps one of the best ways I can deal with my depression is to not think solely of myself, but to realize that I am affecting others.
And by doing this, even if I have to put on my best face on my worst day, I will do it. Because my dog is my life, and he deserves the best one I can give him.
-Rachael Johnson, Girl Person of 2 Traveling Dogs
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8 thoughts on “Do I Put Too Much Pressure On My Dog?”
This hit home. I think that I may have pressured my sweet Bru…first by letting him see my frustrations as I dealt with everything from hostile work environments to other everyday stresses to being depressed and anxious-I completely get where you’re coming from on that front. Our canine companions pick up on that and on top of it all Bru was so incredibly empathetic to my emotions. He would never hesitate to comfort me when I was sad, either by getting his face close to mine to try to dig my head out of the pillow, or by coming up and resting his chin on my leg when I was in a bad mood. Almost always, I would pet him and tell him I was ok, but a couple of times I shrugged him off because I was in my mindset so deep. Now that he’s gone I would give anything to go back to those moments and just get over myself and hug him. I feel like I pressured him to eat as the degenerative myelopathy took a turn for the worst (and as I came to the realization that’s what it was, not a slipped disc). I remember being frantic for him to take his steroid pill two nights before he passed. The next day I actually apologized to him and told him that even though I would always have food for him, he didn’t have to eat anymore if he didn’t want too. I think that he understood on some level…he passed the next evening. I just hope he’s at peace and running happily in those fields and not bound to me because of my still fresh grief even though he passed on the last day of March of this year…I talk to him still because I believe with everything in me he can still hear. I tell him how much I love and miss him, but maybe I should add that until we’re reunited one day he should really enjoy playing in those grassy fields ❤️. I remember to be grateful for Sophie, who is a different personality from Bru.. she’ll cuddle on her own time thank you very much, and takes time for herself to yell at random noises, etc, but is still my wonderful awesome Sophie-butt 😊.
But even so, I think, as with Bru, that your love for them is what they live for and know you are their mom and their person who is their protector and giver of absolute love.
I have no words. Depressions sucks. I am 64 and I agonize over much of what you do. I have 2 Bassett’s and they are old(10 and11) and are just here for me in a gentle loving way. I, too, am in a bad spot, but my history tells me I can rise above this shit. So, there are my words for you, beautiful soul, it can be overcome each time and each time you take away some wisdom from the experience. Keep blogging. Love and prayers. Life is hard on us old souls! ❤️🙏🏻
I don’t think you can fool a dog that loves you. You can’t take your emotions outside. They know. Get help for yourself so your dogs will be happier.
Yes, Dear, that ‘Depression Monster’ is a ‘Life Force Sucker’….it sucks out YOUR life force & those who you are near to & love. And, most definitely, our dogs do feel it, like humans, some more than others. I know, I too battle this bugger. And, I know I could not do it alone, but I feel guilty when I see how my pups react….made the change to ‘cry in the shower’ then come & hug, play & tell my pups how grateful I am for them. And for those who came before. It’s all we as humans can do. Peace & love be yours,always. Safe travels. Love,’Grammy’
You always address the issues that I have. Thank you! We are on the runway of our journey in our RV. Captain says we have hydraulic issues and must wait for someone to come and look at the situation and fix it. My Rusty is finally settling down and will hopefully learn to love our new adventure.
So insightful and I think many of us who do not have children or even a significant other in our lives depend on our dogs to be there for us. Wishing you a wonderful day full of smiles and joy!
This is such an insightful post! It is not always easy to pick up on the subtle cues that our pups give us, but it appears that you did that with ease. I am a firm believer in the healing power of canines; however, I, like you, think it is possible to put too much “pressure” on our pups. Thank you for this post! I hope your new outlook is continuing to help both you and your pup! 🙂
I love this post. My dog is more of a Digby in that he can disconnect when I’m feeling particularly bad, but I’ve often wondered how the sometimes negative dynamics between me and my partner affect him. Even before reading your post I’d vowed to argue less in front of him, because he’ll get visibly distressed and won’t eat. Thanks for the reminder to keep at it. I love how much you honor your dogs, and I wish you a peaceful, feel-good weekend <3