Black dogs. They have held a place in the human psyche throughout history. In some cultures, they were demonic, beings to be avoided. They were omens of death and evil. The most famous literary depiction of this black dog as evil concept is probably Conan-Doyle’s Hound of the Baskervilles. Well, the most famous, that is, until J.K. Rowling capitalized on the concept with Harry Potter’s “Grim“.
For people who suffer from depression, whether it is clinical or temporary due to circumstances, the Black Dog has come to represent the darkness that weighs them down. There is an interesting essay on the history of this metaphor on the “Black Dog Institute” website:
…when we put a name to our depression, increasingly it is that of the black dog, lurking behind us, or clinging tenaciously to our backs. The statesman and politician Winston Churchill drew upon this image to conceptualise his own struggle with depression, and it is with him that the metaphor is generally associated.
In my case, and considering what I am going through right now, the Black Dog is not metaphorical. My Black Dog was my best friend, my protector, my constant companion. He was my sidekick, my seizure-alert dog (self-trained) and my motivation to keep going through some really horrendous life events. The past thirteen years have not been easy ones … but they were made bearable by my Black Dog.
He died on October 3rd.
My entire world has changed. I look for him everywhere, cry for him every day. I wake up in the morning unable to imagine a world without him, and then have to face that very world until I go to sleep again that night.
This depression is worse than I ever could have imagined, and it has been incredibly hard to deal with. But we always deal somehow, don’t we? The alternatives to putting one foot in front of the other, and living life one breath at a time, are none too good.
I actually find that writing a mystery that is dark and brooding helps. The book deals with death, and with being dead. I find myself pouring emotions onto the page that would break me if I didn’t have a way to express them.
Maybe my boy’s death will lead to what turns out to be a good story.
Even if not, though, I will miss my Black Dog every single day of the rest of my life, and, here and beyond, I will love him forever.