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The Good Black Dog. Wednesday August 24, 2016

Findsay exudes calm.

He curls up, an enormous lump of black fur and patience, at the feet of the woman who looks after him.

Findsay is a guide dog in training.

He's the seventh dog the lady next door has trained in this way. She takes puppies at eight weeks old and passes them on to the guide dog specialist trainers at eighteen months. Finsay the black labrador is one year now and has six months left to go with her.

She looks at him with fondness. "He's such a calm dog," she says. "Nothing ever bothers him. And he's a big dog too. He will be brilliant for someone who has anxiety or depression."

Many guide dogs serve a joint purpose. Their primary purpose is to help their owners navigate a world that is primarily organised for the sighted, but they also act as therapy dogs. A dog has to be fed and walked every day. That routine gives a purpose, a pattern and gets the dog's owner out into the fresh air taking some exercise. We know that all these things are beneficial to people suffering from depression.

The routine of caring for any animal gives purpose. A friend tells me how helpful her hens are when she's going through her dark times. She has to get up to feed them and collect the eggs. Just performing that routine steadies her and at least gets her out of bed and relating to something in the world – even if she cannot, in those periods, cope with people.

My fellow bloggers have also written about the support they get from their cats. I am seeing it at the moment. A family member is not well and I am caring for her. One of our cats sleeps with her all day and all night. He leaves her side only at meal times and for toilet breaks. I know that he is doing her more good with his undemanding presence than I can imagine. He cannot cook for her, or talk to her when she needs to talk; for that she needs a human, but his furry presence is invaluable.

Mammals seem to be best at therapy; dogs and cats especially as they love you back. While my daughter's guinea pigs are very cute and cuddly, I'm not quite sure if they engage with me or her in the way our cats do. The stick insect (more of a log insect now it is eight inches long) is interesting and rather sweet, if you're into six legs, wavy antennae and the sting of sharply hooked feet as it walks over your skin; not everybody is. And my son keeps snakes…. No – I'm not going to talk about the snakes.

For those of us allergic to fur and unenthusiastic about insects or reptiles there's always fish. Beautiful and calming to watch; definitely therapeutic.

But not cuddly – the film Finding Dory notwithstanding.

I'll stick with my cats, thank you.

A Moodscope member.

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the room above the garage Wed, Aug 24th 2016 @ 6:41am

Thank you Mary, a lovely gentle blog, timeous and helpful this week (we're mourning a cat). Thank you for it, love ratg x.

Orangeblossom Wed, Aug 24th 2016 @ 7:43am

I am sorry for your loss. Losing a pet is like losing a dear member of your family.

Hopeful One Wed, Aug 24th 2016 @ 7:56am

Hi RATG- my heartfelt commiserations.

Tutti Frutti Wed, Aug 24th 2016 @ 8:54am

Big hugs and hope you will all feel a bit better soon. I think it must be worse with an animal like a cat or dog who is with you a long time - though I managed to get really quite upset when one of our gerbils died last year (as he was really tame and sweet). Lots of love TF x

LillyPet Wed, Aug 24th 2016 @ 9:24am

I'm sorry to hear that too ratg. It was sad when our hamster Lilli died. She was so cute and cheeky. Our first budgie Woody was a sad loss too. I hope although you are all mourning, you will be ok. Love LP xx

Lou Wed, Aug 24th 2016 @ 9:50am

Very sorry to hear that RATG. They leave such a hole in your life for someone so small. Gentle hugs.

the room above the garage Wed, Aug 24th 2016 @ 2:06pm

Oh thank you everyone! He was old, ill and had had a good life and so there is peace in knowing it was his time. A learning curve for children even though they're not so little anymore. Thank you everyone :-) xx.

Orangeblossom Wed, Aug 24th 2016 @ 7:44am

Hi Mary, thanks for your blog. I loved it. I found it very helpful.

Hopeful One Wed, Aug 24th 2016 @ 7:55am

Hi Mary-yes I fully accept that pets, any pets,have all the positives you so eloquently list. I have friends who have dogs and I enjoy the company of their pets. But like a grandparent looking after a grandchild I am glad to hand them back to the owners when they leave.

To continue with LCBT. Further gems from the NBC during the recent Rio Olympics.

5. Softball announcer: "If history repeats itself, I should think we can expect the same thing again."
6. Basketball analyst: "He dribbles a lot and the opposition doesn't like it. In fact you can see it all over their faces."

Tutti Frutti Wed, Aug 24th 2016 @ 9:37am

Hopeful One - Love today's commentry bloopers. I also entirely agree about the advantages of borrowing other people's pets. I am slightly nervous of dogs and certainly can't impose my authority to make them come back/stop them chasing a bicycle. However I am used to particular dogs, like walking and find asking my dog-loving friends if I can tag along on a walk is a great way to get to talk to someone when I need to. I am also horribly squeamish about the idea of scooping poop so that pretty much rules out cats too! My parents however have a wonderful arrangement. They live in a converted manor house with some communal grounds and some areas for particular people. Several of their neighbours have cats and one of the cats seems to have decided that the bench in their garden is his. All the cuddling rights with no responsibility! I do actually have pets myself. We have 3 gerbils. If ever you change your no pets policy you should consider them as they are really funny, very cute and if you hand feed them treats and handle them a lot when they are small then they can get really tame. One of mine runs up my arm and sits on my shoulder to have his tail stroked. Love TF x

LillyPet Wed, Aug 24th 2016 @ 9:39am

Hi Mary,
He sounds like a lovely dog. Yes animals can be very calming and their innocence endearing.
Sadly we have to cope with their loss.
Budgies interact, they like company and do respond. They're not cuddly but it's lovely to handle them. Our's Rio sometimes sits on my shoulder and I can stroke him with the side of my face and kiss the side of his!
However small we make our pets a part of the family.
The loss of a mammal must be so much harder.
Thank you for highlighting the therapeutic value of pets Mary. LP x

Lou Wed, Aug 24th 2016 @ 9:47am

Great Blog Mary! I quite often tell my cat she is my little furry antidepressant ;)

Brum Mum Wed, Aug 24th 2016 @ 11:40am

Hi Mary there's a bit of a furry theme this week! Cats are great too x

Brum Mum Wed, Aug 24th 2016 @ 11:40am

Hi Mary there's a bit of a furry theme this week! Cats are great too x

Graeme Wed, Aug 24th 2016 @ 2:36pm

Lovely, Mary. You are a treasure.

Duma Wed, Aug 24th 2016 @ 4:24pm

I'm owned by an Aberdonian, queen. 88 cat years a kitten. I'm her guide, she can't get out - too violence prone, due to being a high cross, with Highland Wildcat.

Ah, the tigers of the north! The only felines on Earth that cannot be tamed!

Over forty of them now - pure bloods, mind, no rubbish!

Now my heart swells, and my eyes fill...

...Duma, out.

The Gardener Wed, Aug 24th 2016 @ 4:57pm

What an animal theme the last few days. My mother-in-law's last dog was a beastly-tempered Lakeland terrier - she adored it, of course, living alone and a long time widowed. When it died she had just turned 90. Like so many old people they refused to replace the dog, afraid of the dog's fate if it outlives them. What happened? Disastrous for her health. As she did not have to go out with the dog every day she was housebound, and lack of any exercise caused the rapid onset of arthritis. And she had no companion. The last few posts have set up the idea of a dog for myself - something to hug - Mr G just come in office in foul mood - hugging dog tempting - friends say mad - enough responsibility already.

The Gardener Wed, Aug 24th 2016 @ 8:40pm

Re-reading the blog - the 'comfort' of routine, even chickens were mention, among the more stupid of God's creatures. But going into the henhouse, the contented clucking, letting them out and watching their joy as the rush after insects etc, collecting the eggs (hoping not to get a sever peck when you abstract eggs from under one who has gone broody). Simple routine, simple pleasure, and gets you up. I wrote a blog on anthropomorphism last year. I remember my grief when my first hamster died - as an adult was rather ashamed of it, only an animal, after all. But at that time my parents were rowing horribly, and stroking the lovely chestnut back of that little creature, and how he loved to ride round inside my collar was an antidote to the awful adult word, I was bereft. I do, however, think that many people who think they have a particular 'affinity' with animals suffer delusion - they have real problems with relationships, for whatever reasons, and pour all their affection into the animal, which normally responds with affection

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