Thursday 16 January 2020

How dogs are helping men to improve their mental health

Rob Osman and his Hungarian Vizsla, Mali, look like any other contented dog walker out and about in Bristol. However, Rob realised that walking outdoors helped him to improve his mental health, and he wanted to share that positivity with others. So he founded a group called Dudes and Dogs, that helps men who may be struggling to open up, letting them talk in a space in which they feel comfortable.

Outside in the open air, men are more likely to be able to speak openly, rather than in the confines of a room where they may feel more self-conscious. Having the dogs alongside also helps them to feel more relaxed, and provides a welcome distraction.

From just a few men, the group has now grown to a sizable number. There is no pressure to talk to the rest of the group, but over time many members do start to open up about their personal worries and issues. Men are less likely to be aware of the symptoms of depression and so less likely to seek help and support. So a group like Dudes and Dogs is a helpful, non-judgemental space in which they can communicate and share a love of walking dogs. Rob is pleasantly surprised by how quickly the group has grown. He’s even had supportive messages from overseas, including Australia and Peru, saying “we need this too”. Rob is working on a plan to roll out further groups around the UK, and hopefully around the world, as well as offering courses and talks on mental wellbeing.

He also recognises the benefits that a loyal canine companion brings, calling Mali “a big four legged antidepressant”.

Thanks to i newspaper 3 January 2020.

Do foxes get a bad press? Reputation versus reality

Whether we live in the city or countryside, most of us have been lucky enough to glimpse that glorious flash of orange fur as a fox passes by. We may also have heard their distinctive night-time calls and barks as they go about their nocturnal business.

Yet many regard these misunderstood creatures as vermin; unwanted pests who make a mess rummaging in rubbish, and pose a threat to domestic pets and other wildlife.

But is this actually true?

Sensationalistic media coverage has not helped the reputation of the UK’s fox population, with the animal being blamed for everything from occasionally entering homes in search of food to savaging cats, until new evidence suggested that urban foxes were actually scavenging unfortunate felines who were victims of road traffic accidents.

                                         i paper 19/11/19 

There is no doubt that foxes are a well-adapted member of the UK’s wildlife population, living alongside humans in both rural and urban habitats. You are as likely to see one wandering a city street as crossing a field. DEFRA (Department of the Environment, Fisheries and Rural Affairs) estimates that there are 430,000 British foxes. To put this figure into perspective, domestic cats outnumber them by 19 to one! Foxes and cats are not natural enemies, and if they encounter one another, will usually show mutual respect by ignoring each other. After all, a healthy adult cat can be a formidable fighter, with sharp teeth and claws: not something your average fox wants to tangle with!

                                         Photo i paper Getty Images Matt Cardy

Research findings demonstrate our ambiguous attitude towards foxes. Wildlifeonline commissioned an opinion poll, asking a representative cross-section of the UK population how they viewed foxes. 75% of respondents either liked having foxes in their neighbourhood, had no strong opinion about them, or thought there were none in their area. The remaining 25% disapproved of foxes, but this was far higher in London than in rural areas: 33% compared to 19%. Women in the Home Counties scored highest for liking foxes.

Whatever our feelings towards foxes, we should admire their success at adapting to their changing environment. We often champion the cause of those species that are rare, while taking for granted those who thrive, like the fox. We have built upon and inhabited land that was once their domain. They continue to live alongside us, with the risks (and in some cases, advantages) it brings to them. Wildlife that endures is to be admired, when so many species are threatened to the point of extinction.

                                         © i paper 19/11/19

Thanks to i paper feature 19 November 2019.