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Sometimes we need to look after the little things

compassion mindfulness wellbeing wilson Feb 01, 2014

Over the years my husband and I have adopted two rescue dogs, and I am sure in time, we will have more. I love these puppies but with one getting old there are moments that can break your heart.

Wilson*  is of indeterminate age and breed, best described as “a little black dog”. He could be 12, 15 or even 18 years old. He has lost one-eye to cancer and most of the sight in the other after laser surgery. He has been mauled by a husky, has calcified discs in his back, has stiff hips and back legs, sometimes falls over and cannot get back up.

Part of growing old, he has doggy dementia, and as with humans, he gets anxious for no real reason, pacing, circling and panting. Like a toddler we try to calm him by checking if he needs to toilet (sometimes), needs food (always) or just needs a cuddle (generally not!). We give him pain killers at night to help with the stiffness and that sometimes calms him down, but generally we know for a few hours each day he is just going to be anxious and upset.

But the other day I found what is so far proving to be the (near) perfect solution.

The thundershirt is like a security vest for dogs. Designed to calm them in times of distress (thunderstorms, travelling, separation anxiety) it wraps around the chest and abdomen, providing an almost instant sense of security and calm. Like swaddling for dogs.

It works like a charm on little Wilson. The moment it goes on him he rolls over and goes into a deep, calm, natural sleep. No panting, no stiffness, just perfect doggy relaxation.  It’s magic.

And I wish they came in human sizes and were suitable for corporate life.

How would it be if you could still all those crazy mind racing, repetitive, adrenalin-producing thoughts with one simple solution. To stop worrying if you were good enough, smart enough, tough enough. To stop the guilt about working too much, not working enough, eating the right foods, drinking the wrong stuff. To be OK with whatever you did yesterday and just be calm here and now in this moment, knowing you are safe and well and everything will be OK.  

Because that is how we can be. 

We all have our own version of the thundershirt – some work better than others. Mainlining chocolate, vodka or Xanax may not be great in long-term. Taking a hot bath is excellent, if you have the time (and a bath!). Exercise, meditation, long walks, playing with kids (yours or others), laughing, TV (not too much), reading fiction for the fun of it, talking to a friend, swimming in the ocean are all good too.

A few deep breaths or a few “happy thoughts” may work too and can be done anytime, anywhere.    

Let me know what your version of the thundershirt, at work or at home, and let me know what brings you instant calm. Or if you don’t have one what do you wish you could have that might work for you. Then try it out and let us know how you get on.  

*Wilson was his real name .... and here is his real self.


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