Walking the dog – and Depression

We have been adjusting to life with a dog in the house again.  I enjoy the training and have been focused on getting Puppy to walk well on a leash.  It’s been two and a half years since our first dog died, and I had forgotten how much I had enjoyed those dog walks.  The exercise and the endorphins are good, of course, but it was more than that – I enjoyed the walks with the dog in a different way from a walk on my own.  I liked the feeling of companionship, and how well Old Dog and I walked together.  It sounds funny, but our walks were like a choreographed routine.  We had walked so many hundreds of miles together.  I could anticipate when Old Dog might stop and sniff, and she knew how to switch from one side to the other without tangling me up in the leash. We would match each other’s speeds as we walked.

We were a Team.

Fast forward to the past week or so when I’ve started taking Puppy out for walks.  I was initially so excited as it came back to me how much I had loved those walks.  But then I realized the obvious – that Puppy is…well…a puppy.  She doesn’t know how to walk on a leash.  She wants to sniff every possible thing along the way, since all of this is new to her.  We aren’t at all like a pair of dancers who have been together for ages.

Unfortunately, this has led to a lot of frustration and disappointment for me.  I wanted so desperately the walks that I remembered with Old Dog, and clearly that isn’t going to happen (yet).  In fact, Puppy has decided that it’s much more fun to plant her feet and refuse to move.  This was at first kind of cute and quirky, then mildly annoying, and then it started to really make me mad.  I panicked that maybe we had gotten a “bum walker” – a dog who wasn’t at all interested in walks (does that even exist?).

But, with persistence, I’ve gotten Puppy to walk, and we’re making progress.  It’s awkward, and we are not at all seamless, but it’s progress nonetheless.  Sometimes she pulls on the leash, and I have to stop.  Sometimes she lags behind me and I have to tug to get her to move along.  Sometimes she gets underfoot and I trip on the leash.  And sometimes she sits down, I crouch down in front of her, and we stare at each other – one not quite sure what to do with the other.  I know that we make quite the spectacle for all the cars and people that pass us by!

Basically, there are times when I feel like I’m walking Puppy, and times when I feel like Puppy is walking me.  We don’t have a rhythm yet, and we both struggle, but at least we’re moving forward.

What does this have to do with depression, you ask?

I’ve decided that walks with Puppy are kind of like my relationship with Depression at the moment.  Sometimes Depression walks me, tugging me along while I plant my feet and refuse to move.  And sometimes I’m walking Depression, dragging it along behind me or trying to keep it from pulling me too far ahead.

Either way, we’re not at all in sync – but maybe we could be in sync eventually.  Maybe Depression and I could walk along through life much like I walked with Old Dog.  Where we know each other’s habits and patterns.  Where we keep moving ahead with a steady rhythm.

So today I’m thinking that maybe I need to view Depression as a partner rather than an enemy.  Sure, I wish I could pick a different teammate.  Depression is like the last kid left standing when it’s time for kids to pick teams in gym class.  But I don’t have a choice in this – Depression has already been picked for me.  So perhaps I need to embrace it (gasp!) and walk along with it instead of fighting it all the way.

There have certainly been many, many times when I’ve fought against Depression and wanted with all my might to squash it into the ground.  When I’ve resisted it with every fiber of my being.  And there will almost certainly be more of those times ahead.  But in this moment, today, I find some peace and hope in the idea of seeing Depression as a teammate rather than an opponent.  I like the idea that maybe someday we would have a rhythm together.

Finally, just one small thing to tie up this dog analogy with a nice pretty bow:

Puppy is… get this… A BLACK DOG.  That old familiar term for depression.

The Universe has a great sense of humor, yes?  🙂


7 thoughts on “Walking the dog – and Depression

  1. To me, depression is like a big lid kept on negative feelings. I like your idea that you are trying to be in some kind of good relationship to your feelings, depression or whatever else.

    Your puppy is a black dog? lol. I do wonder if life is sending us little messages sometimes.


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