A nomad and his dog travel the blues away

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Grey nomads and depression with companion dog
Jeff and companion enjoying the view

When Jeff C’s decades-old marriage came to an abrupt end eight years ago, his entire world began to fall apart.

Jeff stopped looking after him­self properly and, although he threw himself into his work, he was slipping into depression. By his own admission, Jeff was in a frightening downward spiral. Or at least he was, until a visit to the doctor changed his life.

Rather than prescribe anti-de­pressant medication, the doc­tor urged Jeff to stop talking about travelling Australia, and to get out there and actually do it … and to take his pet dog along with him.

Five years later, Jeff who will soon be 65, declares himself to be the happiest and healthiest he has ever been, and de­scribes his doctor as ‘the best in the world’.

He now spends six months of the year at his home in War­rnambool, Victoria, and the rest travelling.

“My doctor knew I would never leave my Golden Re­triever, Shannon, behind,” said Jeff. “And he also knew that the dog would help me to meet other travellers and to make new friends.”

Because of Jeff’s health issues, the impeccably trained Shan­non was able to be certified as a ‘companion’ dog, entitling Jeff to take it into national parks and other public spaces that most dogs are prohibited from.

However, when Shannon died of old age a couple of years ago, it looked like heartbroken Jeff’s travelling days were over.

“He was so special that I didn’t think I would ever want to try to replace him,” said Jeff. “But, when I got back to Warrnam­bool, my mate walked straight up to me holding a bundle of white fur and said ‘here’s your new dog’.”

That new dog was Sam, Shan­non’s recently born ‘grandson’.

As, Jeff said, “it was meant to be.”

With intense training, Sam was also certified as a com­panion dog and Jeff was back on the road in his 20’ Gazelle Infinity van living the life he loves … and doing so with a happy smile on his face.

“I know I am incredibly lucky and incredibly privileged,” he said. “When I am in places where some dogs aren’t al­lowed, I put Sam’s special com­panion dog blue coat on and the reaction I have got from everybody from park rang­ers to caravan park operators to other travellers has always been positive and supportive.”

Jeff says he doesn’t like to think how things might have been different for him if his doctor hadn’t ‘prescribed’ Big Lap therapy.

“I have had my ups and downs in life but now I feel very lucky and I have Sam to share it all with,” he said. “Sometimes I think it might be nice to have a lady companion to travel with, but I was once told that I could never love a partner more than I love my dog … and that might be right!”

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