Because nothing can cheer you up like the companionship of Man's Best Friend. —By Geoffrey Norman
Lonely? Depressed? Homicidal? Suicidal? Merely bored out of your mind? Trapped in an unfulfilling job, relationship, or apartment? Losing your hair? Your virility? Your soul? Well, like the man said, we all have problems, and maybe what you need is a dog.
Man’s best friend is a dog, right? And nothing can bring you up when you are down like the companionship of a friend. Obviously, then, if you are depressed, what you need is not a therapist or a prescription for feel-good pills. You need a dog.
What sort of dog? There are many breeds, and all of them have particular personalities. Here’s how to choose the right dog for what ails you.
Low Self-Esteem or Depression
Do you go around telling yourself that you are as worthless as secondhand Kleenex? The danger, if you do, is that this could turn into one of those famous self-fulfilling prophecies, and if you aren’t already a marginal citizen, you soon will be. What you need is a dog that will make you feel as if you are the most important, wonderful, resourceful, provident person in the whole wide world. In short, a Labrador retriever. This breed started out its career pulling hawsers in frigid North Atlantic ports and graduated to retrieving dead ducks for the price of a few pats and the occasional “good dog.” But the Lab would, in fact, do the work for free. He loves you--adores you--this much. There is a reason, after all, why the Lab is America’s most popular breed. Get a Lab and you don’t just have a friend; you’ve got a full-time fan club.
Anxiety or Phobia
Ever been backed down by your own shadow? Do you over-tip so the cab driver won’t sneer at you? Does that chick on Alias scare the bejesus out of you? Well, you need to get yourself a dog that will set an example of toughness and aggression and put a little steel in your spine. And if that doesn’t work and people still think you are a wimp, at least they will mind their manners as long as the dog is standing there next to you, showing its teeth. The rottweiler is the quintessential guard dog, and 10 years ago was America’s second-most-popular breed. It has fallen to 16th, perhaps because, according to the experts, a rotty needs “firm, consistent training.” Just the thing...for the dog, and for you.
Forgetfulness or Distractedness
You sometimes worry that you’re a candidate for the earliest onset of Alzheimer’s on record. Or you have so many things going on at once that you don’t merely forget where you left your car keys--you forget where you left your car. The companionship of a dog with single-minded focus might help. One of the hunting breeds, perhaps. Beagles are agreeable dogs and pleasant enough to be around. But all things considered, they would rather be scenting and chasing game. It is in their DNA. Once they are on the trail of a rabbit, fox, deer, or whatever, they cannot be distracted. That can make taking the dog for a walk an interesting exercise in learning to focus on something other than yourself.
Hyperactivity or Stress
If you can’t sit still or haven’t relaxed since your dentist put you under to yank your wisdom teeth, what you need is a dog that knows how to take it easy and get through the day without breaking a sweat. No breed is more laid-back than the golden retriever. Perhaps it is the Scottish ancestry that has made this sporting dog so disinclined to waste its most precious asset--óenergy. Whereas a Lab will retrieve a thrown ball until its owner needs rotator-cuff surgery, the golden will do a dozen retrieves and then look for a place to rest. A great low-maintenance dog, the golden does do one thing vigorously--grow hair. When you get your golden, buy a good vacuum cleaner.
They say size matters, and nobody wants to argue with them, whoever they are. But if you are on the small or thin side and concerned about it, you might want to buddy up with a Jack Russell terrier. This dog can just about fit into your pocket, but nobody ever told him he is a runt, so he’ll take on anything. Bred to chase foxes into their dens, the Jack Russell would take on an MMA fighter and might even win. True to its British breeding, the Jack Russell is a world-class stoic and exceedingly loyal. In the presence of a Jack, one never feels more emphatically the truth of the old saying “It isn’t the size of the dog in the fight; it is the size of the fight in the dog.” Substitute “man” for “dog,” and you’ve got your therapeutic payoff.