“Depression is living in a body that fights to survive, with a mind that tries to die.” - unknown
According to the World Health Organization, one in four people in the world will be affected by a mental illness at some point in their lives. An estimated 450 million people are currently suffering from such conditions; placing mental illness among the leading cause of ill-health and disability worldwide.
Kit is 29 years old and for most of their life has suffered from severe depression and anxiety. In many ways, this depression has defined their entire existence. They can’t quite remember a single moment, even as a young adolescent, where suicidal thoughts didn’t hover heavily atop their shoulders. It has often been a burden without escape.
It was nearing the end of Winter in London; February of 2018. Kit was spiraling. Suicidal thoughts loomed overhead and they found themselves drowning in a black numbness. Kit could barely leave their bedroom, let alone their flat. They were suffocating in their own despair. One day, when things were particularly difficult, a close friend asked if there was anything that might help bring a smile to their face again. Kit replied, “a dog.”
Kit was the child who put “dog” on every Christmas list; who’s imaginary friends as a child, were always dogs. They couldn’t wait until they could have a dog of their own. However, there was one big problem, “my life had never looked like the life where a dog would fit.” Not only was Kit experiencing a very dark period in their life, they were also a single, postgraduate student living in the middle of busy London. Everything in life was pointing to a resounding NO. A dog just wasn’t a good idea. But timing had different plans, and fate brought something… someone, into Kit’s life that would make life worth living again.
On March 19th, 2018, Kit adopted Ezra from the famous Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in London.
It was the evening of March 17th when Kit was browsing the Battersea website and stumbled upon Ezra’s face for the first time. He looked lost and broken; how Kit felt inside. This scared boy was described as hyper with a tricky past; one who’d be a challenge for any potential adopter. He was also completely deaf. Without even meeting him however, Kit had already fallen in love. They spent the entire night and the following day researching deaf dogs and how best to train them; Kit was on a mission to prove they would be the perfect home for Ezra. Assuming the line would be out the door for this gorgeous boy, little did they know there was no other interest. And on the morning of the 19th, for the first time in months, Kit awoke early and felt alive.
Their journey together has not been an easy one. Being deaf, Ezra has faced many challenges in his short life. He is a product of double piebald breeding which caused his bilateral deafness at birth. He cannot hear anything, nor has he ever been able to. Communication, prior to finding his forever home, was non-existent. Ezra had a home for nearly a year where he was kept outside in a garden 100% of the time. Never truly being a part of the family, they never even put the pieces together that Ezra was deaf. He would eventually be surrendered to Battersea. Six months passed before another family came to his rescue, however very quickly he proved to be too much of a challenge for them as well. They locked him away in their kitchen because he had never been an inside dog before and his manners were less than stellar. Rather than take the time to teach and train him, they gave up on him and he was once again returned to Battersea.
Deaf dogs are just like any other dog. They thrive on reinforcement and approval. When they have no way to communicate their own feelings, or a method of understanding what their humans are trying to say… it is unsurprising when their behaviors become troubled. When Ezra went home with Kit, he was a wild boy with very little training. And he was A LOT of work.
In the early days, Ezra felt impossible. He was not only deaf and needed to learn a way to communicate, he was also highly anxious, hyper-active, sensitive, and simply couldn’t mellow. He seemed to be in a permanent state of restlessness. For someone like Kit, who was already battling daily with their own mind, some days felt intolerable. But a challenging rescue dog was exactly what Kit needed. Ezra gave Kit a reason to get up each day. It gave them both order, structure, accountability to one another and a purpose bigger than themselves. In the nearly two years they’ve now been a family, they’ve both come so far. Ezra is a love bug, who loves everyone despite his past. And sure, he still has bad days every so often. But… who doesn’t?
Before Kit adopted Ezra, they were on the cusp; suicide just within reach. Now that time feels like a distant memory.
“He makes me proud every day. His progress and the way he has overcome the challenges he’s faced, overwhelms me. I have built a completely different life. He is my best friend, my savior, my boy.”
Research indicates that approximately 90% of people who have died by suicide were suffering from mental illness at the time. The most common mental health illness reported in these findings was depression. The World Health Organization reports that nearly 800,000 people worldwide die by suicide each year.
The National Alliance on Mental Health reports that dogs do contribute to one’s overall happiness. Studies show that dogs can reduce stress, anxiety and even depression. They help to ease loneliness, encourage exercise and help reduce blood pressure. People with dogs are less likely to develop heart disease - just playing with a dog has been shown to elevate oxytocin and dopamine, creating positive feelings and bonding between people and their pets. For someone living with depression there is so much to gain from having a dog.
- Exercise: Dogs need exercise, which means you’ll be exercising right along with them. Exercise increases endorphins, which fight depression. Because dogs need consistency, you’ll also learn how to make exercise part of your daily routine. Research indicates that consistency in one’s schedule, can help reduce stress levels and lead to better sleep patterns and overall health.
- Socialization: Dogs give you a reason to talk to new people while on walks, dog parks, etc. This simple act can alleviate the loneliness you might feel in a depressive episode. Socialization with others, especially face-to-face, has been shown to ease symptoms of depression. Having a companion can also prevent depression from worsening. Caring for an animal gives you purpose, making you feel wanted.
- Self-Worth: Dogs can be a lot of responsibility, but research shows this kind of responsibility helps your mental health. Some psychologists believe you build self-esteem by taking ownership and applying skills to a specific task. Taking care of a dog offers reassurance that you can not only care for another living being, but yourself as well.
Kit and Ezra found and truly saved one another. The life they’ve built together has faded the pain and suffering they both experienced to nothing more than an echo of their former lives. The healing power that dogs possess is astounding. If their story resonates with you, if you find yourself feeling lost and without hope… consider adopting a dog in need. No one should ever feel like help is beyond reach.
If you have suicidal thoughts please seek immediate help through a trusted doctor. Or contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. If you live outside the United States please click HERE for a list of International Suicide Hotlines.
Thank you to Kit and Ezra for sharing such a vulnerable piece of their lives. To keep up with Kit and Ezra from day to day, please follow them on Instagram.