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Pets: Helping or Hindering?

Amber Kingsley

Ever since our twenty-something daughter was diagnosed as suffering with bipolar depression accompanied by manic episodes and anxiety, I’ve learned volumes about this disease. Some of this knowledge comes from personal experiences, talking with parents, or information from research on the internet.

But as most medical professionals tend to agree, there’s still so much to be discovered about this puzzling disorder. Is it genetic? Does it always come along with the progression of age? Is it connected with other medical conditions? … and many other important queries that research is working on revealing.

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Personal Experiences

For example, my aunt recently passed away from complications from bipolar disorder, as did her mother (my maternal grandmother). Yet my much older mother and I don’t seem to be experiencing any kind of symptoms. So it would seem that genetics and advancing age aren’t an issue.

Canine Comparisons

It might seem odd that I’m bringing the family dog into this equation, but there are still some strange associations that should be shared. For example, we have a Norwich Terrier, a breed that’s well renowned for its hunting skills and feistiness on one hand, while having a happy-go-lucky nature on the other. Sound familiar?

As our dog continues to age (ten-years-old now), she’s getting slower, a little hard of hearing and sight-challenged, but overall is still in pretty good health. But those inherent terrier tendencies are also becoming stronger, and more prevalent. Like a “dog with a bone”, sometimes she just won’t “let stuff go.” There are many times in which it seems she’s setting a bad example for our daughter with persistent, unrelenting behaviors; mostly scratching, licking and retaining an attitude problem.

Medical Experts Weigh In

The little dog has been to see the veterinarian on multiple occasions and the doctor insists that our canine doesn’t have a skin condition or other reasons for these unrelenting behaviors, but it still makes me wonder … is she being neurotic or actually suffering from some type of undiagnosed medical condition … could it be that she’s bipolar or is she exhibiting emotional behaviors from being attached to one of her best friends … our daughter?

After more research and some personal experiences, when it comes to the argument of whether or not our cute little doggie is helping or harming our child, the answers are actually quite simple once they’re explored and accounted for individually.

For example:

  • Before our daughter was diagnosed, she would sometimes cry uncontrollably because her homework was challenging. The little dog was quick to console her sensing her depression, anxiety, and frustration.
  • Post-diagnosis, when the dog is concentrating too much on something over simplistic, our daughter is the one who is there to recognize her abnormal behavior and lend a soothing hand and calming voice to assist with the canine’s dilemma.

These are just two examples of why I believe that our dog is actually helping, and not hindering our daughter’s (and our dog’s) progress through life. The first time the dog comforted our daughter (when I was at work), the kid called me very worried and said, “Why is the dog shaking … I don’t understand what’s happening … is she okay?”

I could tell that my child was upset about something and asked if she was alright. She replied that she had been crying due to an adolescent problem with a boyfriend at school. I almost laughed when I heard this type of teenage news and reassured my daughter, “Animals are much attuned to our emotions and she knows you’re upset, and because she loves you, she’s upset too. She’s just trying to help you.”

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Service and Giving Goes Both Ways

Even if pets aren’t trained to be service and social support animals, they still understand basic human nature and are always there to lend a helpful “paw” when it comes to problems. They can sense when we’re upset, stressed, happy, sad and a myriad of other emotions.

So the answer to our opening question, whether or not our beloved pet is helping or hindering our child’s bipolar condition, the solution to this query for us is a resounding YES on both sides. How about you? Do you have a pet that’s playing a special role in the emotional, medical, and mental condition and development of you or a loved one?

Please share in the comments below.

 

Comments

I completely disagree that pets help. I have two dogs and all they do is frustrate and irritate me.

I have a pack of rescue dogs. 5 to be exact, some with behavioral issues due to mistreatment. Concentrating on correcting their behaviors takes my mind off of my own. We adhere to a strict schedule which is helpful to all of us. When I am depressed, their needs are what get me out of bed. Sometimes they ARE on my last nerve and that is the excellent thing about crate training. In they go with something good to chew on and we all get a rest from each other.

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