The Ways My Animals Help Me Face Mental Illness

There are times when I am too tired to get dressed, too melancholy to bother to eat nutritional food, or to anxious to care about anything because I’m caring about everything. These times are exhausting, and life tends to slip through the cracks when I am experiencing these feelings.

But there is something that is always guaranteed to drag me from the couch and into the great outdoors – my animals.

Our dog, Darby, my dear sweet fur daughter, will make me feel guilty and frustrated with her boundless energy if I don’t at least take her out for a short walk. Her boundless energy can be infectious. She is my constant companion, and on the bad days, her intuitive ability is at its finest. She will be my shadow, sitting silently at my side or at my feet, lying on or under the bed if I haven’t managed to get up. Seeing her bright eyes looking up at me with concern helps me to push on when things seem to be too hard to handle.

Then there are my dear cows, Daisy, Budda-Bing, Cow, and Mavis. They are my playful and affectionate visitors who often drop in unannounced. They come up from the paddock and proceed to sniff around the house and bellow until I come out to them with carrots or apples. They like to be fed by hand, be petted while they eat, and they are always appreciative. They don’t care if I am still in my pajamas, if my hair is unwashed and unbrushed, or if my breath stinks. If I don’t answer their call, Daisy will bring it upon herself to tap on the cement at the front door, like a knock. She is determined that she must be rewarded for her lengthy journey up the hill.

Images Copyright: Kat and Steve Smith |

Our chickens are tame too. While they don’t eat from my hand like the cows do, they will stand right at my feet and demand their food by pecking at my toes mercilessly. And when they bring their tiny, fluffy, cute little chickens home from their bush nests, it brings a warmth and joy to my heart.

And last but not least is Brewe, our Merino sheep. He was left here a year or so ago when the rest of his flock was moved on and has made himself part of the family. He amuses me so with his standoffish nature, which obviously wars with his natural curiosity. When the MooKids come for their visits, he comes too. I bleat at him, and he comes closer, until he is close enough to see I am not a girl sheep — but simply a girl — at which time he huffs and walks away. There is much to be said for the humor he brings to my life, although he would be likely unaware of it!

Some assume that animals are not intelligent creatures, but I would disagree. They have much more simple lives than us, but they are still complex in their ability to nurture our very own souls. They make me see joy, they make me laugh at their amusing antics, they warm my heart when it feels cold and numb. Their playfulness and the gentle understanding they seem to have makes me smile; they are so pure in their affection, wanting nothing more than a pat and a meal.

People assume that these animals rely on me, that they need me for their care, but the truth is far from that. I need them.

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