The Bipolar Dog Comment

Earlier this week at the dog park, one of my neighbors made a comment I thought was quite curious.

A Rowdy Luna

Luna, our Boston Terrier, is a couple of months away from being three. You wouldn’t know it if you met her though, she often bounces back and forth between the energetic fervor of puppyhood (running in circles, humping and head-butting other dogs, etc) and a petrified docile state where she flops down, belly up, if anyone even looks at her.

The suggestion, then, was that her behavior is:

a little bipolar.

At first I wasn’t sure if this was an insult or a compliment (as someone who lives with bipolar disorder personally) so I chuckled and shut my mouth to consider the implications of this statement.

A Meek Luna

I’m not saying I believe my dog has bipolar disorder, but it is often true that people’s dogs take on personality traits of their owners. Luna hasn’t had any angry outbursts, or mentioned any hallucinations, or gone on any manic spending sprees, but it is obvious, even to those that don’t know her, that she fluctuates between two very different extremes when we’re out on our walks. Rowdy and raucous one moment, meek and submissive the next.

Really, there are any number of things that could be causing this behavior in her, (and it isn’t uncommon for people to project their own feelings onto their animals) but what was beginning to bother me was the thought that maybe this was because of me

I mean, I don’t have kids, and I don’t plan to. Luna is the closest to having a child I ever expect to get. I’m sure it sounds far fetched, but could I possibly have taught her to be this way? I mean, I’m constantly bouncing between being a completely docile, whimpering, couch potato and getting up to play with her when my own bursts of energy come along. Surely she doesn’t have the emotional responses of a person with bipolar disorder, but her bizarre energy fluctuations do mimic my own (because that is how I interact with her and take care of her).

The one little piece of heartbreak in this is knowing that she has, in one form or another, adapted to the way I live. I am around her all the time, and she usually only plays or asks for something when she knows she is most likely to get what she wants. But has adaptation to the way I function (or don’t function, sometimes) made her unable to adapt to the way other dogs play at the park?

I’m not really that worried. She’s a dog, she’s very adaptive, she’ll figure it out. I was just boggled by the notion I had passed this behavior on to her, and I was concerned, if even for just a moment, that she’d somehow caught bipolar disorder from me.

Luna is an excellent dog, and she has adapted to my needs very well. She can still be a little pushy (but then again, she does need to go outside sometimes -and so do I) but after this comment at the dog park I can’t help but feel an enormous amount of appreciation around how well she has adapted to how I live.

Sorry if I’ve inadvertantly made you a little weird, little dog, but everyone loves you anyway!

5 responses to “The Bipolar Dog Comment

  1. “the energetic fervor of puppyhood (running in circles, humping and head-butting other dogs, etc) and a petrified docile state where she flops down, belly up, if anyone even looks at her” ……….

    Are you telling us this is what you act like during your manic and depressed times!?

  2. I read this and I think too much too fast. A dog is a dog, it’s not a human and while romanticizing el perro it’s still just a dog. Being bipolar sucks and is not something to be rewarded. If you are stricken then that sucks but don’t press your luck as you are a weakness within the bipolar realm.

  3. My hubby tells me that my dog’s inattentiveness and distractability are from my side of the family and that she takes after me. I think she’s just natively programmed to be easily distracted. Like me.

  4. I understand your feelings of guilt. My husband and I both have borderline personality disorder (among other things) and we say all the time that we have turned our dog into a BPD canine version of ourselves. We’re a little BPD fambly. That being said, dogs are sensitive to our feelings, emotions, attitudes, tones of voice, etc, but, they are still just dogs. Ceaser Millian from the Dog Whisperer is constantly talking about how humans project their feelings onto their dogs. It’s sometimes hard to remember that dogs are animals and act based on their instinct, not their crazy emotions like us humans do. I enjoyed your post. :-)

  5. I also have a dog like this. I use him as a service animal. During my depressions, he encourages me to function because he has needs (food, water, walk) When I’m manic, he calms me because he has needs. Most importantly, he always seems to know just what I need to function on a higher level at that given time. I don’t think you should feel guilty, I think you should use your individual insight. Keep up the good work. :)

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