This is the time of year, the holiday season, when traditionally there are more suicides. In spite of it being a religious holiday, a time spent with our families, some people know only despair. I know when I worked in the County jail booking inmates December was a busy time of year. Depression, the cold weather and grey days, brought out the worst in people. Holidays spent alone forced people to dwell too much on their messed up lives and relationships. The result was murder, child neglect, drug overuse. The list went on and on. The same could be said for the week after Christmas and before the New Year’s celebrations. While the media would have you think that all of us are happy, well fed Americans in warm houses with 2.3 children and 3.5 pets, that is not always true. (I’m not sure how a fraction relates to children and pets though.) In actuality there are many of us taking care of senior parents, parents who have had older children return home jobless, perhaps divorced with little kids in tow, and money stretched as thin as the cold air. Life is not always a Norman Rockwell picture. My point is if you know of someone who is alone, looking depressed and/or could use an encouraging smile this is the time of year to offer help.
While working outside the Cordova Mall in Pensacola, Florida recently, ringing the Salvation Army bell with my dog by my side, I noticed an overwhelming number of people with glazed eyes and gloomy faces, just going to the mall as if it was another in a long list of duties they had to perform. But wait. There in front of them were a pair of moist brown eyes and wagging tail; big dogs, little dogs, pocket dogs and hound dogs, asking for attention. Some of the dogs seem to use telepathy to drag people over to them. Whatever karmic ability the dogs had it brought out the best in shoppers. Only a few people looked disgusted and made sure to walk a wide circle around us. The wagging tails brought out the “human” emotions of caring, sharing stories of their dogs, past and present, taking pictures and stuffing money in the red pail. This is why using dogs to rehabilitate prisoners, who spend their time training abandoned dogs, is gradually becoming so popular. Dogs bring back the good feelings about self and surroundings. If someone loves me, even if it is “only” a dog then life must be better. There must be hope for the future.
As I face 2011 I know that no matter what troubles bear down on me there will always be a dog beside me to lick my face and bring me happiness. May you find the same contentment also.