Monty Don said dogs can help with depression, crediting his golden retriever Nigel with getting him outside again after he suffered from “black periods”.
The Telegraph reports that speaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, the gardener described how looking after his pet forced him to think of something other than himself when he suffered with mental health issues.
“It’s no secret that for many years I’ve suffered from depression,” Don told the audience in Cheltenham.
“If you are unwell, physically or mentally a dog is a huge comfort. Dogs heal, there is plenty of evidence to show that.”
Don has previously talked about how he suffers from Seasonal Disfunction Disorder and the different methods – including Prozac and cognitive behavioural therapy – he has tried.
But spending time outdoors with his pet, he said, has been “incredibly” beneficial.
He said: “A dog is an incredibly good way of getting you through the black periods because they love you all the same when you are feeling very unloveable. This is partly because they have to go for a walk and they have to be fed.
“Having a dog stops you thinking about this person you don’t like very much.”
Nigel, an eight-year-old golden retriever, has become something of a star on BBC2’s Gardeners’ World.
He even has his own Twitter account, describing him as the “lead presenter” on the gardening program with Don as the “faithful assistant”.
A relatively recent addition to the Don household is one-year-old Nellie, also a golden retriever, who Monty describes as “mischievous”. “One of the things I’ve learned an awful lot about,” says Monty, “is about how dogs read humans.
“They can sense when you’re sad, they can sense when you’re struggling but pretending not to struggle.”
Having a dog is also about love and comfort, the gardener added.
“Nigel taps into a desire for order and domestic safety. When you see him, there’s a sense some things are true and honest and decent and that some kinds of love are uncomplicated.
“The more confused the times, the more we need these basic things.”
Monty Don’s poem for Nellie:
There was a dog called Nellie
Who chewed on Monty’s Wellie
She bit straight through & Monty turned blue
Now he’s only got one for the Telly
(Story source: The Telegraph)