This week’s guest blog comes from our Explorer Piper and her hu-mum Amy. Our furry pals can be a great source of comfort, companionship and motivation for dog owners in many ways, particularly when it comes to mental health. Piper is sharing her experience of helping Mum, Amy through the struggles of anxiety and how becoming an Explorer has helped her to live the best life possible.
Hiya, I’m Piper! I’m a one-year-old, playful cockapoo pup from Wales. This week I need to discuss an important issue, and in my opinion, it’s not barked about enough! Dog owners across the world have mental health issues, and it’s our duty as furry sniffers to stick by their side. Read my story below on how I took the role of a superhero and helped my Mum through anxiety.
Love at First Sight
My humum and I have a very special bond, the day she collected me and took me to my forever home was her first night there as well.
She wanted us to move in on the same day and start our adventure together.
We had so much fun and set about making our house a cosy home. We went on daily adventures and attended puppy classes, everything we did was together and pawfect.
Going Through Changes
I noticed at the start of last year my humum began changing. She seemed nervous on our adventures and play dates with friends became less. She started to get nervous doing our daily routines.
A few times I would find her sad and crying before she left for work. I was sad as she was leaving me but this was different.
Our weekend adventures changed from all day events to early mornings. There were fewer doggies to play with, but mum was by my side so I took on the role of protecting her. I could sense her unease if someone started talking to us. I would stand in front of her so they couldn’t get too close.
Some evenings we would just lie in silence on the sofa, I would snuggle in close and lick her tears. I even tried sharing my favourite toys with her to make her smile again.
Neither of us seemed to know what was wrong, but as the months rolled by, humum found everything harder. She wondered if she were going “crazy” and said no one understood her like I did.
I kept pushing her to be out and about and made sure she knew I was always there for her and would protect her.
She eventually sought help and realised she was dealing with extreme anxiety, she attended CBT classes, went to the doctors lots and attended counselling and I was with her every step of the way.
Finding Dog Furiendly
We started going out during the daytime more and humum found a website called Dog Furiendly that was hosting a doggy Easter Egg hunt last year. She plucked up the courage to book us a ticket and we went together as a team.
I could sense humum was nervous, but I started playing with all the other dogs and she began to relax, chatting to other dog owners about me and taking all focus away from her.
When the chance to apply to be a doggy explorer came up my mum sent a private message to Dog Furiendly, she was too nervous to do the public post, and we managed to be accepted and invited to an induction day.
Mum pushed herself for me. She even says the reason she got out of bed during those months was to make me happy, as I was always there for her. She wanted to give me the best life possible.
One Year On
Fast forward a year and my mum is back to her old happy self. We have a great social life again and she no longer spends her evenings crying or having panic attacks at the thought of doing everyday tasks.
We are not 100% there and some days there are setbacks, but the bond we have will never be broken. I know my mum will never forget how I helped her through her worse days and how close we are because of it.
My mum was ashamed of her struggle and felt it was something to keep a secret, but now she and I feel that the stigma needs to be removed.
Note From Amy (Piper’s Mum):
Mental health was always something I had sympathy for, but honestly never really understood. That was until just over a year ago.
It started slowly. First feeling nervous in normal situations, imagining the worst-case scenario in everyday tasks, then feeling lightheaded with vision blurred. I was scared and began to think I was going insane. Shying away from social events, which isn’t me at all. Hated going to work as driving there was a huge ask, I couldn’t even walk Piper.
One day I had an awful morning drive and broke down in the car park before going into the office. That was when I knew I had to do something. I messaged my nearest and dearest and they gave me the support to seek help from my GP. I’ve done the medications, the insomnia side effects, CBT classes, endless hours of counselling to try and get me back to who I knew I was.
Somedays I thought I’d never get there and it was all pointless.
My closest friends started a group chat with me where we celebrated each mini win of my day. Making it out of bed, driving to work, saying hello back to someone who approached me while walking Piper.
It was the hardest year of my life in all honesty and there were days I didn’t think I could go on.
I still have hard days, but I look back a year ago and see how far I’ve come and realise I should always celebrate my journey.
If it wasn’t for Piper
If it wasn’t for Piper I don’t know where I would be today. She helped me more than anyone will ever know. Joining Dog Furiendly and removing focus from myself and onto her has completely changed my life. I feel like “me” again. The bond Piper and I have is so strong and I can never thank her enough. All I can do is make sure she has the best possible life with me forever.
Many of you may think I’ve become a “crazy dog lady” but Piper was the biggest help in getting me back to myself and accepting a part of my life I spent so many months ashamed of. I found Dog Furiendly and it gave me an escape, a focus that wasn’t on me and a community of people who just wanted to enjoy time with their dogs.
I can never thank my amazing family, friends, work colleagues and Dog Furiendly family enough. To those I pushed away, cancelled on or just didn’t show up to meet–I’m sorry.
Anyone going through similar, it’s hard and it’s scary but reach out! There is always a helping hand.
I’m no longer ashamed of my struggle and I have written a blog from Piper’s perspective, as it was easier to do than from mine.
It’s okay not to be okay.
Have you been through a similar experience? Share your stories below on how dogs have helped owners with mental health.