Rob Osman from Bristol, England, has had it pretty rough. The 38-year-old has battled with anxiety and depression for most of his life, and at one point was reduced to living in his sister’s windowless basement smoking far too much weed to care. Eventually, however, Rob found a way out of the rut.
Many things have helped him to get better, including the pursuit of a psychology and counseling degree at a local university. But the best remedy was walking his Hungarian Vizsla, Mali. As they were strolling outside, Rob felt his body relax and the tension melting away.
Realizing the huge healing power of this simple everyday activity, he set up a group called Dudes & Dogs. It’s a mental wellness community that encourages men to get out in the fresh air for a walk and talk about their feelings.
“Talking helps. It really does,” Osman wrote on the group’s website. “It’s helped me no end, but sometimes as men, we aren’t the best at it. Well, Dudes & Dogs wants to change that for the next generation. There is no doubt things are changing. We want to be a part of that. By simply getting outside, talking things through, we can start to change our mood.”
It all started during one of those wet, windy, and cold days that the UK is so notorious for. There was no way in hell Rob wanted to go out, especially not the way he was feeling.
But there was the dog. She didn’t care that her owner felt like crap. She didn’t care that the weather was rubbish, she just wanted to get out and play. “It’s been the best therapy I’ve ever had,” Rob said.
Pretty soon, Osman started inviting friends on walks with Mali. Some days, they would chat but often they simply hang out. But most importantly, he discovered that his friends were also benefiting from the dog and fresh. This got the man thinking if he could expand this model to more people. More men.
They are very resistant to seeking mental health treatment. According to a study by Priori, 40% of men won’t talk to anyone about their mental health. Dogs, however, seem to ease them into having these conversations.
“They need someone to listen,” Osman told TODAY. “The idea of using a dog gives people an hour away from the family and gets them out. Dogs are like four-legged antidepressants. When people are around them they drop their defenses. They play with the dog.”
Image credits: dudes_anddogs