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If you want to get a life, get a dog

If you want to get a life, get a dog

Dr Copperfield on why GPs should consider prescribing ‘dognitive behavioural therapy’ to patients suffering from ‘shit life syndrome’

Patient: Hello Dr Copperfield

Dr Copperfield: Hello patient, what can I do for you?

P: My partner has left me, I’ve lost my job, I’ve had a recent bereavement, my flat has mould on the wall, I’ve fallen out with my family, I’ve put on too much weight and I have no money.

Dr C: I see. How can I help?

P: I want you to give me something to make me feel better.

Dr C: Well, you seem to have what we doctors call ‘shit life syndrome’.

P: What’s that?

Dr C: Shit life syndrome is when your life’s a bit shit.

P: What can you do about it?

Dr C: I’d rather be honest with you here. I can’t do anything. In this situation, many doctors would send you for a completely pointless blood test. Or they’d put you on an endless waiting list for a talking therapy. Or they’d refer you to a social prescriber, and no one really knows what they do, not even them, apart from the fact that they’re the people we often send people with shit life syndrome to. But the truth is that, in any meaningful way, we have nothing to offer.

P: Can’t you just give me some pills?

Dr C: Pills won’t make your life any less shit and I’m not going to pretend that they will. The only person who can change things is you.

P: How?

Dr C: My advice is, get a dog. Not a nasty one who looks at you like it might rip your face off when you’re asleep. A nice, fluffy one.

P: You are having a laugh.

Dr C: I’m serious. It gives you a purpose, it gets you up in the morning, it provides warmth and affection, it gets you exercising and it helps you engage with other people. The only downside is the poop scooping, but with shit life syndrome, your life’s full of that anyway – it’s just another plop in the ocean.

P: That’s not a proper treatment.

Dr C: I think it is. I call it DBT, or ‘dognitive behavioural therapy’.

P: I want a prescription. For antidepressants.

Dr C: Dogs are available over the counter. The dose is, take one dog, for walks, as necessary. Re-engage with life, think positive, have purpose. A dog will act as the catalyst to all of that.

P: But I had a dog.

Dr C: You had a dog?

P: I had a dog.

Dr C: And?

P: And it died. Last week. That was the bereavement.

Dr C: You had a dog. And it died. Last week?

P: Correct.

Dr C: How about some sertraline?

Dr Copperfield is a GP in Essex. Read more of his blogs here



Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

Truth Finder 21 April, 2023 5:30 pm


Not on your Nelly 21 April, 2023 7:58 pm

Fantastic. What we all want to really say….

Frank HOffmann 22 April, 2023 2:55 pm

After years of writing writing columns he still makes me chuckle, and is completely right

Sam Tapsell 26 April, 2023 2:57 pm

I recall a lady who was very sad and didn’t know why.
She came to chat a few times.
She didn’t think it was losing her dog, since she hadn’t become sad when her husband died a few years before…

It was the dog.

Wasifali Siddiqui 2 May, 2023 3:51 pm

Brilliant ! very well written – excellent “dognitive” idea !