Depression Dog


First in a series
Simple Cure?

Driving home from Amarillo Richard had his eyes on the road while his wife Diane took in an outrageously beautiful New Mexico sunset. That’s when she saw something moving on the roadside. “Hey, Richard – slow down! That’s a hurt dog!”

Rather than a tragic accident this was a blessing, and for more than a canine waif. Diane had suffered with depression for years. Following the death of their dog several months earlier her condition had worsened. She had been diagnosed with depression and was having trouble getting out of bed in the morning. She had tried to power through and “handle it on her own” but she just wasn’t getting better. Her doctor increased her antidepressant medication dose – a necessary adjustment that only partially alleviated her despair.

Really? Over a dog? Absolutely. Pets are that important and fully necessary for many people to cope. Those who suffer with unseen disorders of the mind can have a stronger need for unconditional love than the rest of us. The brain is a highly complex organ. There’s much that can go wrong but there are also many ways of helping. Dogs, cats and other pets have great meaning to a lot of us because they stand by us in ways that other humans may not. Dogs, in particular, care about their people even when they don’t fully understand what’s wrong. They set the standard for empathy.

This doesn’t have to be all business. There’s nothing like a dog or cat just for fun and companionship. And we get mighty attached. We form such strong bonds that their passing leaves a hole in the heart. That roadside stray wasn’t actually hurt but he did need medical treatment because he was dehydrated and malnourished. “Jasper” became Diane’s and Richard’s new dog. They took good care of his immediate needs for warmth, good food, and then they mapped out his long life of love in their home. Diane’s wellbeing started turning a corner that day.

Jasper turned out to be a fun little guy with a great personality but, like many canine castaways, he came with behavior challenges. He’d sneak into another room to snatch pillows, throw them around, and then hump them. If left home alone he tossed the house like a completely irresponsible burglar. When Diane and Richard confined Jasper to a crate while attending church he barked and howled so much the neighbors offered to baby sit him. What a naughty beagle? Next week: What do you do with a dog like that?
For help with behavior problems, you can sign-up for a Zoom Group Conference on my website,

Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in-person and in groups by Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week he shares a blog and a Facebook Live video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at Post pet behavioral or physical questions on or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.