I used to think that the term “Black Dog” was a strange way to describe a feeling. It gave my black dog friends a bad name. But now that I am older and have seen my human Mum battle depression, I realise it is a good term
Winston Churchill first called depression “The black dog”. He explained that just as faithful dogs always follow humans around, so also does depression. It appears out of the blue and bite like a nasty dog, for no real reason.
No matter how much a person tries to run away, deny the problem or move to another country, depression stays with them. At times it hides and the person thinks they are OK, but then they find it nipping at their heels again. Occasionally Mum thinks that the black dog has left her for a new home, but then she hears him he battering at the back door again. He is a persistent fellow.
My Mum has told me some of what she feels, and of course I can see her sad face. At times I can see the big black dog’s shadow swamping Mum’s happy feelings. I can sense she feels weighed down. On the very bad days the Black Dog even tries to suffocate her and she cannot get out of bed.
Eight years ago, when Mum decided to take me into her home, she had no idea that I would become such a vital part of her life. She depends on me for love, loyalty and laughter.
My Antidepressant Role
On Mum’s bad days I have to take action. I stand on my little back feet and reach up to tap her firmly with my front paw.
She hides her head under the pillow. “Go away KoKo” she grumbles “There is a BIG BLACK DOG under the bed. I feel scared.”
I know I must not let her stay in bed: I have to be fed and taken to the park for a play!
I puzzle about what I can do. My little brain tells me to be practical so I drop to the floor and crawl under the bed.
“Mum listen to me” I growl, when I finally reappear with my fur a little dusty.
“Mum all I see are a few tiny spiders and the black sock you were looking for last week. There is no black dog under the bed. Please get up.”
My soft reassurance does not help. She is still hiding under the blankets.
I bark loudly…..WOOF WOOF WOOOOOOF! “You have to get up NOW”. She sighs and makes herself smaller under the doona.
It is now time for my ultimate “never fail” technique.
I jump up on the bed and lick Mum’s toes with my pink tongue. Mum finds it very hard not to giggle and finally has to get out of bed to stop me.
I am very clever to beat that Black Dog for just a little while.
Here is a poem I wrote (I use my pseudonym KoKo ShakesPaw as i am not a very good poet!)
A Black Dog Remedy
by KoKo ShakesPaw
I am my Mum’s carer
and her clown
I give her comfort
when she is down
I don’t ask her why
she feels half dead
I just sit by her side
on her bed.
If you need some human help with sad thoughts, please contact:
www.blackdoginstitute.org.au or www.beyondblue.org.au