Greetings, and welcome to my 75th blog! Follow this link if you’d prefer to listen to a recording.
I hope you’re well and finding ways to feel good about you and your life. I am certainly trying, but these past few days have been weird. I’ve been feeling sluggish, my head is filled with chaotic thoughts, and last night I dreamt that I drank a bottle of wine which made me wake with a start! I was relieved when I found it was just a bad dream. While I know it’s trivial enough, I have been feeling quite uncomfortable that I’m putting on weight all too easily recently. In an ideal world I’m not vain and try not to worry about how I look, but this wobbly belly is bugging me. Thank goodness for tight Lycra in helping me keep it tucked away. And I guess I can at least be grateful that I’m not ominously losing weight. The wobbly belly is less of a concern though than my fuzzy brain. But, fuzzy brain ‘n all, I am still forging ahead with my commitment to be consistent with my blog. So, please forgive me if I’m not as coherent as you’d expect!
This time three years ago I wrote a blog called By George in which I declared my undying love for my canine companion, George the Groodle. And here I am, still talking about him and the healing impact his presence has on the mental health of my entire family. He still sleeps on my son’s bed every night and is still a source of comfort to us all, especially if we are feeling anxious. My bedtime routine includes popping in to lie on my son’s bed for a few minutes to have cuddles with George. It is the perfect end to the day.
Bonding with a pet
Is it just me or have you also noticed a huge increase in recent months of stories relating to dogs cropping up in the news and social media feeds? It feels as though humans are gravitating more and more towards the love of a pet. I’m clearly not alone in finding that special connection with a creature that doesn’t speak my language yet who communicates me in his own unique way. I’ve no doubt that the pandemic has had something to do with this. People who would’ve otherwise found themselves lonely because of lack of human contact have found comfort in the company of a pet. And then some of us realised that, actually, our pets can be better companions than humans sometimes! There I’ve said it! Does this sound as awful as I think it does? Is there something wrong with me that I would choose to hang out with my dog instead of people? I love my family and friends, but nothing compares to the sense of acceptance and unconditional love that I get from George the Groodle. He takes me as I am. He is always happy to see me, judging by the way he wags his tail and licks my hand. I only have to be out of the house for ten minutes and he will come running to the front door to greet me enthusiastically upon my return. These past few days he’s put up with my ridiculous blabbering in his ear about how much I love him, speaking to him in absolute gobbledy-gook, and throwing my arms around him in a crushing embrace without so much as batting an eyelid. Instead, he looks up at me as if to say, ‘I’m glad you have me to make you feel better.’
Craving simple love
People are complex. We all come with a range of issues, mostly established in our early years, and often related to how we attached or didn’t attach to our carers. Our carers, in turn, had their own challenges in how they were cared for and so it goes on. Yet our needs aren’t as complex. I believe that what we crave more than anything else is simple love, acceptance of who we are in the moment, and a space where we can just be. In our relationships with other human beings, we come face-to-face with their complexities, and we can often be triggered in negative ways by how they relate to us. Enter a smoochy-bear such as my dog, George who looks at me with eyes free of judgement, comes and sits by my side in a demonstration of unconditional love, and responds openly to my affection. Straightaway I feel important to him, and it gives me a warm sensation of being valued – something that I crave in my life. I think I can say with some certainty that this is what everybody craves. Am I right? While it’s important that we remind ourselves of our own worth, given that we are wired for connection we still need relationships to help us fully exist. The American writer, Harville Hendrix wrote, ‘We are born in relationships, wounded in relationships, and heal in relationships.’ Relationships are where we get to express who we are. If the person we are trying to relate to, because of whatever is going on for them, is unable to respond to us in the way we need in that moment, we can feel a bit empty inside.
Digby the defusing dog
I want to share a story that I came across today while I was lazily lounging around. It moved me to the point that I jumped up and dashed to my desk to write about it. It’s from the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service in the UK. They had been called to an emergency situation involving a young woman who was threatening to end her life. When the fire and rescue team arrived, the police negotiators were already speaking to her as the situation became increasingly worrisome. One of the fire crew had the idea to bring along Digby, their ‘defusing’ dog. Digby is apparently an expert at defusing situations. As a therapy dog, he helps crew members when they’ve been exposed to trauma. As soon as the dog appeared at the scene, the distressed young woman immediately swung her head around to look, and then she smiled. This stimulated a conversation with the young woman about Digby and a crew member told her about Digby’s role in the fire service. The crew member asked her if she would like to meet Digby, and everyone was overwhelmed with joy when the young woman said yes. She is now in recovery and hopefully getting the help she needs to overcome the challenges that made her feel like her life was no longer worth living. What this story highlights for me is how, even in our darkest hour, a simple gift from nature can awaken in us the desire to connect. It appears to me that it is this loss of connection that can make life feel meaningless for some. I understand it at a deep level. There have been times in my life when I wondered what it was all about. It can be extremely hard to see through the complexities that we as humans burden each other with, day after day. We all bring our own turmoil into our relationships, without the knowledge or training in how to separate ourselves from it. That’s why I am a huge advocate of counselling as it is in talking that we can make sense of these complexities. In learning to accept them, we can let go of the power they have to get in the way of how we relate to others. While I am not suggesting that animals should replace humans in our relationships, I do think they can provide respite for us to reconnect with that part of us that wants to give and receive love unconditionally.
I have a dream
I realise that keeping a pet is not a reality for many people for a variety of reasons. Imagine if there were a place where people could go to spend time with a dog or a cat (I choose these animals as they seem to be the most popular pets), a place where the animals are well cared for, trained to be relaxed around humans and other animals, and where, for a small fee, people get to form a bond with one of them and can book in to see them regularly. The centre could also offer qualified counsellors to provide services to people needing to talk through what’s ailing them, in the company of the animal they bond with the most. There are so many unwanted cats and dogs in pounds right now, begging to be loved and cared for, and to be of service to humans. And there are many lonely humans in every community longing to find connection and to experience the giving and receiving of unconditional love. This is the type of project that could transform a community by improving mental health, caring for the needy and bringing hope to many. If any of you readers out there want to take this idea and do something with it, please feel free. My dream is to see animals better cared for, and humans to feel more connected.
Now that I’ve taken the time to express my feelings through writing this blog today, I feel a little less frazzled. What I need to do next is go out and get some high intensity exercise before I do some meditation. Then, hopefully, I will be back to my totally amazing self. I can but try. Thanks for reading thus far. I will leave you with this quote from writer, George Elliot, ‘Animals are such agreeable friends. They ask no questions; they pass no criticisms.’ I hope you get to feel the love of and for a pet in your life. Bye for now. Love, Gill x