An Interview with Linda Dano - Canine Companions
The Support Partners Program, provides practical help for the millions of Americans who are diagnosed with major depressive disorder, and the people who care about them. When you are depressed, you can feel isolated and alone, which is why having a Support Partner can make a real difference. A Support Partner can be anyone who wants to help a friend or loved one who has depression Canine Companions is the newest component of the Support Partners Program. Your dog can have a positive effect on your overall health and well being.
The program will help you understand how your dog can help you cope with depression on a day-to-day basis. It offers practical tips on adding your dog to an existing support network of family and friends.
Tell me what about the “Support Partners Canine Companions Program”
Linda Dano: In travelling the country and talking with thousands of people, we all realized the vitally important role that our dogs and cats and animals in general play in our lives. They can be more than just the family pet and actually become a part of your support team in a really valuable, intense way. For instance, when Frank died and I went down that terrible road of depression, the one thing aside from my support team of girlfriends and doctors, were my dogs. These dogs were with me when I was all alone, and because I had them, I was never completely isolated. Late at night when I couldn’t sleep, when I felt no joy and felt hopeless, they were there. I had a reason to get up and get out of bed, which is a key thing for someone suffering from depression, as you know. Just any of the little things we take for granted when we’re feeling good about ourselves are hard to do; but if you have a pet, you have to tend to them: you have to feed them, walk them; you get away from yourself for a minute. You have someone to focus on, and we realized how important this element of trying to get our lives back is, so we added canine companions to the Support Partners Program. It’s really working, and people are looking at their pets in a much different light. Animals help you focus on something other than how bad things are; you look in the eyes of an animal and it’s comforting.
GB: What kind of feedback are you getting from caregivers about the program?
LD: I was interviewing a woman in Nashville, and she was talking about her daughter who is a Downs-Syndrome child. She has a cat that sleeps with her daughter. The mother can see into her daughter’s room from her own, and she noticed that the cat jumped off the bed one night and came to the mother’s door crying, and then ran back and jumped up on the girl’s bed. The mother went into her daughter’s room and discovered she was having a seizure. So, I believe that God makes animals to comfort us, to be our little angels, to help us through bad times and good times, help unite a family, and do all the things animals do. I know that my two dogs were extremely important, and continue to be important in my recovery. So with the Support Partners Program, we decided to have people talk about this.. We’re not saying that if you don’t have a dog you need to go out and buy one because there are many ways to incorporate a dog into your life. You can go to a park where there are a lot of dogs; you can baby a friend or family member’s dog. It’s the stroking, it’s the loving; and it all helps when you’re struggling with depression.
GB: What is the Psychiatric Dog Service Society?
It’s an organization to educate people about service dogs. The dogs
are trained to address all sorts of situations, like going into a
restaurant. It’s a dog that needs to be with that person at all
times in order for that person to function. Depression can be almost
as crippling as blindness, and no one thinks about a dog that is for
the blind. People with depression need to have that same comfort,
that animal, that companion with them all the time.
GB: I think that’s just a wonderful organization.
LD: I do too. I think that it’s just fabulous. Whether you look at ads or watch TV, there are always commercials with animals; we are connected to that world, and maybe we’re even more connected than we even know. That’s why you need to look at them with a different eye; the family dog becomes part of your support team.
GB: What are you hearing from the people that you run into as you go around talking about depression?
LD: I think the major thing that people don’t do is they don’t talk and they isolate themselves. I think that if we bring anything that is thought provoking, it’s that. It’s talk. It’s to speak to someone. Reach out. Find someone to make a support partner of, someone who would be there for you, listen to you. You know, I was watching the “Horse Whisperer” the other day and I hadn’t seen it for a very long time. There’s a line that Robert Redford says to a young Scarlett Johansson: “Knowing something is the easy part. The hard part is saying it out loud.”
GB: That’s an amazing quote.
LD: Exactly, and that’s what Support Partners is really all about. That’s all it is; it’s a simple fact that if you reach out and you say it: “I think something may be going on. I think I may be suffering from depression,” you’d be shocked at what the other person might say. It’s always possible that the person you’re saying it to has been waiting so long to have you say that to them. They didn’t know how to reach out to you; they didn’t know what to say and they didn’t want you to clam up. So they’ve been waiting for this moment, and they are thrilled that you would say that to them.
GB: What would be the one piece of advice you would give caregivers regarding depression care management?
LD: They must ask for help. They can’t do it all by themselves. Because what happens is the amount of time and energy it takes to care of a loved one 24/7 will absolutely take a caregiver down. They need to have that five minutes or half-an-hour to walk around the block. They need someone to come in and give them a break. It will relieve all sorts of things like the anger that might flood through them at any given moment, and then the guilt they feel about the anger. You need to breathe; you need to get into a hot tub; you need a moment of your own.
Gary Barg is the Editor-in-Chief of Today's Caregiver Magazine, caregiver.com and the Caregiver Newsletter. You can received his newsletter for free by going to caregiver.com and signing up.