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Coronavirus and mental health: “In lockdown, my dog has taught me the importance of slowing down”

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Lauren Geall
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In this lockdown period, when everything feels so uncertain and chaotic, having a dog is the perfect antidote, writes Stylist’s Lauren Geall.

A year ago, my family got a dog for the first time in my life. Over the last year, I’ve spent many a weekend going on long walks on the beach and throwing balls for him in the garden.

My dog’s name is Marlowe. He’s a one-year-old apricot cockapoo who has way too much energy (anyone with a poodle-mix will know what I’m talking about). He’s inquisitive, extremely cheeky and up for anything – his favourite place is the beach, and he’s a stickler for a tummy rub. He answers to various names, including (but not limited to): Mar Bear, Mars Bar, Angel Boy and Little Man.

He is, to put it simply, an angel. As anyone who knows me will tell you, I’m obsessed with him; if anyone dared to tell him he wasn’t a good boy, I’d probably fight them (joking…Kind of). 

Marlowe
Marlowe enjoying his lockdown walk.

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 has proved this quite like the current lockdown.

In a time when the world is full of chaos, when reading the headlines feels like an endless stream of anxiety, Marlowe has been the ultimate comfort. As someone who lives with anxiety, it’s all too easy to become sucked in to the terrifying stories and predictions about what’s coming next – but having a dog forces me to get outside and away from my screen for a while.

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He’s 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 in lockdown 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. Sure, I miss my life in the city, and I can’t wait until I can get back to seeing my friends and going out for dinner, but 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 announcing the lockdown or the endless photos of bread on my Instagram feed, 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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Lauren Geall

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