For The Love Of Dog

Much of my waking time is spent in the company of my dogs, out on walks or curled up on the sofa. They are a huge part of my life and most of the time, I wouldn’t change a thing. Let me introduce them to you:

First up is Corran, my 10yr old, highly neurotic Gordon Setter. In our canine collective, the brains of the operation. Now I know some of you will instantly be saying ‘Wait, what? Brains? It’s a Setter, they’re not clever’. Well actually they are very clever, it’s just that they have the attention span of a 4yr old child who has just necked 12 fruit shoots to wash down 12 sherbet fountains!

You’ve met the brains, now meet the brawn, Grier – our 7 3/4yr old German Wire Haired Pointer. Definitely not clever but very powerful and an incredible swimmer. She thinks that most things can be categorised as eat it, chase it or hump it!

And finally, there’s Spud – my LBD (little black dog). There are no photos of Spud as he resides only in my head. The black dog was of course made famous by Winston Churchill who described his periods of depression as like being followed by a black dog. 

There are many of us who have been followed around by the black dog. For me, Spud has been with me almost all of the time over the last 14 years. At times he changes size and shape, on occasion he will be a little dog, barely noticeable and with a bite that couldn’t harm a hamster. At other times however, he is more like Cerberus – a snarling 3 headed beast with a serpent for a tail, taking a break from guarding the entrance to the underworld so that he can follow me round with a look of menacing intent! At those times it is hard to do anything other than hide under the covers and hope that he goes away.

Why Spud though? Following a conversation with a friend who has her own black dog I gave him a name. He’d been with me for so long and he knew everything about me so I thought it was time that I got to know him. The first step was to give him a name. By knowing who he was I felt that I could start to tame him and get some control over his behaviour. As I’ve got to know Spud I’ve found ways to accept his presence and learned how to stop him growing into that snarling beast.

I said that Spud has been with me almost all of the time. There are certain times when Spud is never with me, in particular when I’m in the mountains. Whether I’m walking, climbing or skiing, Spud has never made an appearance in the mountains. The mountains provide me with the ultimate solace, where my attention is so focussed on the task in hand and the beauty of the natural environment that Spud doesn’t get a look in.

So, as I prepare to head off to the mountains again at the end of this week I was expecting to leave Spud at home. However, on this occasion I intend to take Spud with me. The reason? I’m hoping that it’s time for Spud to retire to the farm. I think that he’d enjoy a nice peaceful retirement, fields and woodland to roam around in, a stream to sit by and maybe a few squirrels to chase. So please join me in wishing Spud a happy retirement. And if you have your own black dog following you around, maybe give him or her a name, get to know them and see if it helps you tame the LBD.

Stepping Gingerly Out Of The Dark

So after much encouragement to get writing, welcome to my new blog. I’ve never done anything like this before so please be kind.

My life over the past 14-15 years has been dominated by an ongoing battle with depression. Unfortunately, it took me over 12 years to acknowledge I was suffering, that I couldn’t manage it on my own by just ignoring it and that I needed to seek help. During the last 2 years I’ve obtained help from my GP and the pharmaceutical industry, attended courses and counselling sessions and received incredible support from pretty much everyone I’ve talked to about it, both family and friends – many of whom I’ve never met but, through the power of Twitter, have become a huge part of my support network.

As time has gone on, I’ve come to accept a lot of things and acknowledged that so many of them are outside of my control so they really have not been worth the importance and control over me that I had allowed them to have. This process of acceptance and recognising when I am struggling has led me to where I am now, stepping gingerly out of the dark and back into the light.

Hopefully through my blog I will be able to share some of my story and the things I have learned. There will also be posts on travel, food, adventure and pretty much anything else that takes my fancy.

Before I sign off for tonight though, it would be wrong of me not to mention my wife. I suggest above that I spent the first 12 years battling depression on my own but nothing could be further from the truth. Throughout my illness, my wife has always been by my side, supporting me without question and without judgment. Helping me get through and constantly picking up the slack whenever I couldn’t even start something, let alone finish it. For so much of this time I never even knew there was anything wrong but the more I look back, the more I see where she held me up. I try not to think about where I would be now had I truly been fighting alone.