Mental Health Awareness Week

Guest blog: Amelia Le Brun

It’s becoming more widely recognised that the bond between dog & owner can have a hugely positive impact on people suffering and living with mental health issues. In this week’s blog, to support Mental Health Awareness Week (13th-19th May), Amelia Le Brun, Photographer & Popular Blogger explains how her French bulldog pig has supported her through tough times.

The bond between owner and dog is well known, and as old as time. Dogs are often referred to as best friends, companions, even ‘fur babies.’ Well known for ‘keeping people young’, or ‘getting us out more’. All of these physical advantages of a dog are indeed priceless. However, the mental health benefits of the presence of dogs are talked about far less.

Anyone who knows me, or has read my captions on Instagram, or my various blog posts will know that I have struggled with depression, anxiety and borderline Bipolar disorder for about five years now. I was diagnosed at the age of eighteen, soon after leaving my home, my mother and my best friend and companion Dudley. Dudley was the first real dog I ever had; as in to say he was mine. We had adopted puppies while we lived in Jamaica but had to leave them behind when we left. We adopted him from the local shelter at the ripe old age of ten. He had cancer and with a prognosis of only six months to live he had been looked over many times. Three and a half years on, after all four of us were enrolled in University, and my father had come home on leave from the Army one last time, Dudley left us. Heartbroken doesn’t begin to touch how I felt upon hearing the news. My fragile mental state, although in check was wavering once again. I didn’t go home for weekends for a long time after that, I couldn’t bear to open the front door and be confronted with an empty hall.

Around two years later, still living in London, hating the course I’d enrolled on, and struggling severe loneliness and depression once again, I made the decision to start doing some research into the best dogs to keep in a flat in the city. Extensive research bought me to a French Bulldog, at this point a fairly unpopular and less well-known breed. I began to trawl rescue sites, coming up short every time. I have never bought a puppy, nor have I ever given it any serious consideration. To me it seems cruel when rescue centres are loaded with unwanted pets.

On the eve of my twenty first birthday, after a long and tiring drive I collected Sunny, a rescue puppy farm bitch in rather a sorry state. Fast forward until now, and Pig is unrecognisable. I cannot count how many times I have asked myself whether I rescued her, or the other way around.

I left London shortly after adopting Pig, we were kicked out of the flat and trying to find another was more hassle and trauma than it was worth, for both of us. Although technically still enrolled at university, I was no longer having to spend money on accommodation. Pig and I spent the next few years exploring every corner of the UK we possibly could. From rainy nights in the back of my Ford Focus in Scotland, to waiting out a storm in an old and tired pub in Wales and waking up in our camper van at Lands' End, Cornwall.

Having Pig has made me a better person and a more selfless, relaxed traveller. She feeds off my emotions and is alarmingly in tune with my mood. Of course, I still suffer with depression, severe mood swings and often crippling anxiety. But each day I remind myself that her comfort and happiness is more important to me than anything, and she has given me a future to look forward to. I took her in with a promise of giving her the best life that I was able to provide. I have been lucky to be surrounded by fellow dog lovers, selfless and loving people who have taken care of Pig and I and allowed us to grow and develop together at difficult times. Time spent outside has taken on a new dimension, a new purpose and a totally fresh point of view. I find myself heading more to the coast and less into the mountains, because watching Pig scamper along, trying to eat seaweed and dodge waves makes my heart explode with happiness.

It might sound like a huge cliché́ but Pig has been a constant for me. In a life that is based around travel and change, I have clung to her warm body, been comforted by her gentle snores and cried countless times beside her, only to be greeted by kind eyes and affection. She has stuck by me, hiked to some incredible locations, and made me laugh at a time where I felt despair. I will never cease to swell with pride as she trots along on eight-mile hikes, through woods, mountains and streams, putting a smile on the faces that we pass. This Summer Pig and I are venturing further, I want to show her new places, take her on crazier hikes and love her more than I ever thought possible.

If your dog helps you to cope with the stresses of day to day life, then join the conversation, and share your story on Facebook or Instagram using #MyDogMySupport #Forthglade #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek. You could even win a selection of Forthglade goodies for your very own four-legged saviour!

Monday 13th May 2019