Life

Dog mental health benefits: “In lockdown, my dog taught me the importance of slowing down”

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Lauren Geall
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During lockdown, when everything felt so uncertain and chaotic, the routine of having a dog was the perfect antidote, writes Stylist’s Lauren Geall. 

Anyone who knows me even vaguely well will know how obsessed I am with my dog, Marlowe. I have always been an animal person – dog TikToks are my definition of quality entertainment – but having my own dog has taken my love to a whole other level.

Since we got him about a year and a half ago, I’ve spent many a weekend going on long beach walks and spending way too much money on new toys and treats. I’ve also been known to take way too many photos of him, as if I’m some kind of obsessed dance mum (his appearance on the Stylist Instagram was one of my proudest moments).

For a bit of background, Marlowe is a one-year-old apricot cockapoo who has way too much energy (anyone who’s ever met a doodle will know the kind of chaotic energy I’m talking about). He’s inquisitive, extremely cheeky and is up for anything – his favourite place is the beach, and he bloody loves a tummy rub. He answers to a variety of names including (but not limited to): Mar Bear, Marsy Bar, Angel Boy and Little Man. 

Behind the scenes, he’s also been incredibly helpful for my mental health. When I’m feeling low, or anxious, or generally just a bit shit, he’s at my side nudging me to run around in the garden. When I need some time to think, he’s my excuse to get out of the house. And no situation proved how important he is to my mental health than lockdown.

In a time when the world was full of chaos, Marlowe’s presence became the ultimate comfort. As someone who lives with anxiety, it was all too easy to become sucked in to the terrifying stories and predictions about what’s coming next – but having a dog forced me to get outside and away from my screen for a while.

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He also helped me adapt to the whole working from home lifestyle. Sure, he can be a little bit disruptive when he wants to be (picture me wrestling him off my sleeve as I try to file a story), but he also forces me to take breaks so we can play fetch and gives me no option but to switch off my laptop at the end of the day so I can take him for a walk. 

You don’t quite realise the importance of slowing down until you’ve got a furry friend to remind you. The simple, out of this world joy a dog finds in just being alive is enough to remind you that your worries about social media tag challenges or whether you’re being productive enough during a pandemic are small, pointless worries. 

Marlowe the cockapoo
“I’ll always remember how great it felt to spend hours walking in the countryside exploring with Marlowe by my side.”

Working in London, it’s easy to forget how amazing it is to just slow down. I still miss my fast-paced, pre-pandemic life in the city, but long after all of this is over, I’ll always remember how great it felt to spend hours walking in the countryside, exploring with Marlowe by my side. 

Indeed, for me, the defining image of this uncertain period won’t be Boris Johnson making coronavirus updates or the endless photos of bread on my Instagram feed in those early days, it’ll be taking Marlowe for those long, drawn out walks which gave me time to think.

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Images: Lauren Geall

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