We can very easily find ourselves living in a cage.
Literally if our lifestyle traps us for hours inside or metaphorically if we contain our minds, ambitions, sense of worth. Other people can contain us in such ways too, but they can also set us free.
I frequently drove past an animal shelter when visiting my Mother in the Malvern Hills and one day veered off to see if I could lend some support. Lots of dogs and cats and hens living in cages. It made you melt with sadness and hope a fresh start would come their way soon. The manager asked me if I wanted to adopt a dog. I said I yearned to but couldn’t possibly because I lived in London, in a flat, didn’t have a big garden and frequently had to work long hours. I already knew from the policies of many dog shelters that I was considered unsuitable.
The manager asked me if I lived near a park (yes). Could I get up early every morning to take a dog for a walk before going to work? (yes). Could I arrange for someone to break the day by visiting the dog and taking it out? (yes). Could I take it out for a walk in the evening? (yes). The answer was yes to every question. He then cut straight to the truth and said that if I could offer a dog a life better than living in a cage or being put down that I should just go ahead and do it.
In a very direct and simple way he freed a dog from a cage and me from the cage of my mind because not long after I took his advice and my dog Hardy and I just dissolved into each others’ lives with little trouble.
Dogs can deeply resonate and soothe troubled minds. There is general research and more specific research to prove this. Research has shown connecting with dogs has brought benefit to people desperately in need of help – anorexic children, rape victims, patients in hospital, those who are lonely, older people, those who are isolated, children who have been bullied, children who have reading difficulties, those living on the streets.
Dogs are wonderful companions. Their approach to life, of living in the moment and not hiding their feelings, is a lesson for us all. They enthusiastically connect. They lighten and soften moods with their playfulness. Dogs even make travellers smile and connect on the tube. Children being dragged to school suddenly pick up their step after coming across a ‘doggy’. Neighbours get to know each after saying hello to the dog. When you are responsible for the welfare of a dog you feel valued, that you matter, you have structure and regularity built into your life, something which can easily fall away without responsibility for another living thing. The need to care and joy brought from caring should not be underestimated. They also ensure you spend a lot of time outdoors leading to all the associated benefits.
A barrister’s working life is demanding and has considerable work / personal life related pressures. One positive aspect though is that there is greater freedom to work from home. For a plethora or reasons, if you can offer a dog a life better than living in a cage or being put down, please consider it.
Don’t just take my word for it. Below are links to:
Rachel James is the Deputy Director of Education and a wellbeing lead at Gray’s Inn.