Change (02/28/07)

Dear Zelda,

I've gone through a tough year and my job leaves me feeling down and depressed. Do you have any advice to help me turn these feelings around? I've become a hermit and go to a job I don't like then come home, close the door and watch television. My wife and children tiptoe around me and I haven't been answering the phone. Usually the callers are all telemarketers anyway. I don't want to inflict my mood on my family, but I can't help it. I read your column every week and you make me feel better so I'm asking for your advice. What can I do?

Down in the Dumps

Dear Down,

I have a favorite bit of dogma that I'd like to offer: success is how high you can bounce back after you've hit bottom. It's okay to have a rough year, and it's okay if you've had a hard time dealing with it. But it's time for you to get up, get over it, get on with it, and bounce back. Bad times happen to everyone... even this Diva-Dog, believe me. But let me tell you, the single best way to make bad times worse is by hiding. We've all done it, but  by turning yourself into a "hermit," you're not helping yourself or your family, and as you know, it's a vicious cycle. The more you hide, the harder it is to come out, and the worse you feel, so the more you hide.

It's not easy to turn this ship around, but it can definitely be done, and the bottom line is this: you don't have any other choice. Your family is depending on you not just to put food on the table, but to be a real person: a father, a husband, a role model, a basketball coach, and a shoulder to cry on. It's okay for you to have tough times and to be sad, to be stressed, to be depressed, but it's also important that you try and work through those times for the sake of your family.

So here's what you need to do. Begin by reminding yourself that your life is good. First thing in the morning, before you go to work, pick up a pencil and paper and make one list of all the things you're grateful for, and another list of the things in your life that make you happy. Use these lists to figure out what it is that gives meaning to your life: what brings you joy, and what's important to you. This isn't about what's meaningful for others, it's about meaning for yourself. Right now, it doesn't sound like you're finding much happiness OR meaning from your life, so it's time to sit down and reassess. Once you have your list, try and do something simple each day that makes you happy, and something simple that gives your life meaning. Even small steps like this can have a huge impact on turning around your outlook on life.

In addition, you should consider talking to a health professional about your feelings. Your depression sounds serious enough that it might be really helpful to get some outside advice and support. Many people are scared to seek any kind of professional medical help when they're feeling depressed, but depression can be an incredibly debilitating condition, it's very real, and often the feelings are so strong that they're hard to manage by yourself. Again, the bottom line is that you know things need to change... now it's just a matter of doing whatever is necessary to effect that change.

You can do it, "Down." We've all been there at one time or another, and we know that it's possible to get UP, move forward, and turn over a new leaf. Be grateful, be positive, and turn your life "upside," not "down!"

Zelda

Dear Zelda,

I've just graduated from college, have a real job, and a new apartment. The only thing missing is a dog. I grew up with retrievers (my dad and brothers love to go bird hunting), but ever since I've been introduced to you I've decided a bulldog is what I'd like to get. I love your face! It makes me smile and feel good. The family retrievers have been wonderful, but I'd like a change and I want to choose a dog of my own. Can you give me some information on the English bulldogs, what I should look for, where I should look, and what I should look out for? I know you're not available, but do you have brothers or sisters?

Bewitched by Bullies

Dear Bewitched,

To answer your question, yes, I feel extremely qualified to tell you about English bulldogs. Not only am I a bulldog, but I hear from thousands of bulldog owners who have passed along some great advice. Believe me, you want to be careful in selecting any pet, and we bulldogs have some pluses and minuses of which you need to be aware.

Let me begin with the good news: my owner selected me because when she looked at me, she saw a mirror image, not of how she physically looked, but of how she felt in her heart. Our short snouts and hang-dog faces convey a huge range of emotion. When I'm sad I look really sad, and when I'm happy I'm grinning from ear to ear. We bulldogs are also very intuitive about your feelings. When you feel like the world isn't exactly smiling in your direction we pick up on it, and we'll be right by your side to comfort you. We're definitely snugglers, and nothing makes us happier than hugs and kisses. That also means we require a lot of human attention.

As a breed we are generally easygoing and dependable. Yet in spite of our sweetness we aren't pushovers, and we're not always easy to raise and train. Most of us are extremely stubborn. When we don't want to go out in the rain we will sink our paws in the plush carpet and refuse to budge. We respond best to patient, persistent training. Also, you mentioned that you work and live in an apartment. Apartment living works best for bulldogs that are a little older, as we mature bullies like to spend most of our day snoring on the sofa. A young puppy, on the other hand, needs more exercise. So before you bring a bulldog puppy home, make sure you have the time to train, play with, and take care of a young pup.

In addition we bulldogs have our own set of sounds. Because of our short snouts, we snort, grunt, wheeze, snuffle and snore with gusto. It's often how we communicate.  For me, one loud snort translates into "it's time for bed." Two snorts means "what's up? You're late with my dinner." My owner finds my sounds endearing, but some people might find these same sounds annoying. Flatulence is another rarely discussed but surprisingly common bulldog feature, but with the right food our gassiness can be controlled. My secret, of course, is a good dose of JOY perfume to prevent all the nose-curling sniffs at my noxious whiffs.

Finally, I don't have any brothers or sisters, but there are many great bulldogs out there waiting for you to find them. However, the cost of purchasing a bulldog can be high (usually beginning around $1500). There are options you can look into by checking on  www.petfinder.com <http://www.petfinder.com> , or you can check the internet for reputable bulldog breeders in your area. Many of the folks who write me own rescue bulldogs they love and adore and that they found through their local bulldog rescue organizations. Check out www.rescuebulldogs.org <http://www.rescuebulldogs.org> for a place to start. One of the advantages of choosing an older bulldog is that you will know their personality and their health history. Bulldogs can definitely come with a range of serious health problems, including hip, heart and skin issues, so the cost of keeping us healthy can run into big numbers. While Zoe, ZeeZee and I have had some minor health issues early on (like cherry eye and ingrown tails), for the most part we've been very healthy and happy. I'm ten, getting close to eleven years old, and I continue to look and feel great.

I hope my comments are helpful and that you'll spend significant time thinking about your decision, and make a real commitment to look for, find, and get to know your potential bulldog well before bringing him/her into your home. My owner likes to tell friends that no home is complete without a bulldog...  and that's no bull. But it has to be the right home, and only you'll know that. Take time, make a responsible choice, and you'll find the love of your life.

Zelda