‘Borrowing’ a Dog is the Best Thing I’ve Done for My Mental Health in Months

Breaking news: I have discovered a mental health hack that really works. No, it is not yoga, meditation or breathwork. Nor is it not limiting blue light time before bed. It is not even sleeping for 10 hours a night and taking two baths a day a la Dakota Johnson. It is a tiny fluff ball named Woody.

A little context: I have been borrowing a dog. Woody is a very adorable two year old Cavapoo that I have been borrowing from a local couple for the past few months. He has curly golden fur, a heart-melting head tilt, and a distinguished haircut that gives him surprisingly sad eyes.

It all began after an evening of scrolling through dog videos on Instagram and whining to my partner about how “I want oneeee” before being reminded that we live in a garden-less flat that we do not own. So, I found myself on Borrow My Doggy, a website that helps dog owners meet up with desperate dogless locals like me. Before long, I was arranging to meet Helena and her dog Woody in the park. Now, every couple of weeks I pick him up in the morning so that he can hang out with me (ie. sleep in a very cute little ball on my sofa).

I’m grateful to be able to borrow a dog for the working day. Though I hope to have a dog of my own one day, right now, it’s simply not practical. And the same can be said for many other people in the country. Whether it be landlord restrictions, space constraints, or financial concerns, there are a number of reasons why owning a dog is simply not a possibility for many. In fact, a lot of people made the leap to get a dog before they were ready during the pandemic. Borrowing a dog offers a wonderful substitute. Available all over the UK, the website pairs dog owners with dog walkers and dog sitters looking for a part-time companion. It’s simple, free to use and offers a win-win for all parties involved.

As a full-time freelance writer, I work from home every day. My routine can become monotonous and surprisingly draining: wake up, work out, work, eat, sleep, repeat. If I’m busy with looming deadlines, I admit that the outside world can sometimes be forgotten altogether and my day sees me rotating between the three tables in my flat.

When I say that having Woody around every week or two has transformed my mental health, I’m not exaggerating. For one thing, he needs to go outside — which means I do, too. I see the park, I hear the birds, I smell the roses — you get it. Simple, yes, but surprisingly effective. Yesterday, upon returning from a lunchtime walk with my sad-eyed companion, my partner remarked with a hint of confusion in his voice, “You seem… happy…”

But having a furry friend visit — one who wants only to nap and cuddle on the sofa — is beneficial in other ways than simply forcing me to actually, you know, go outside. In fact, numerous studies have illustrated the benefits of having animals around. A 2022 study in Frontiers in Psychology found that dogs improved mental health by giving owners a sense of purpose. The same study found that building a bond with a dog was associated with greater feelings of emotional support and companionship but poorer levels of anxiety or depression. Another 2019 study found that students who interacted with dogs experienced lower levels of stress and improvements to their mood.

Of course, borrowing a dog may not be the ultimate cure to every mental health concern — but for a little work stress and moodiness, it can certainly help. For me, having Woody around is a reminder to slow down, relax and enjoy the simple things. If I’m ever stressed by work or worried about my future or anxious about money, a glance up at Woody dozing peacefully on the sofa or gazing out the window or following me devotedly from room to room offers a moment of calm.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *