When dealing with depression, a number of things can be beneficial while trying to better your mental health. Seeing a counselor, a therapist, writing down your thoughts and having a strong personal support system of friends and family to lean on all are useful tools to combat sadness and depression.
A dog also can help, as Solomon Thomas learned.
The 49ers' defensive end has been open about his own fight with depression following the tragic loss of his sister and best friend, Ella, who took her own life on Jan. 23, 2018. Thomas has discussed the importance of his own therapy and he and his family have taken up the cause of raising mental health awareness in order to help those struggling with depression.
Thomas battled depression throughout last summer and fall, but a French bulldog puppy named Zoe helped the Stanford product through the hard times.
Zoe is the one-year-old puppy of 49ers director of player engagement Austin Moss. Moss adopted Zoe at the behest of Thomas and some of his teammates who understand how a dog can help one's mental health.
“This is a very stressful job, it’s very hard for a lot of guys,” Thomas told The Athletic's Lindsay Jones. “A dog could be a perfect getaway for some guys, and sometimes you don’t know what a dog could mean.”
While Moss initially was reticent to take on the responsibility, he saw the impact his sister's dog, Vito, had on Thomas when he would come to the 49ers' facility.
Now, Zoe, who Thomas helped name, spends her days in Moss' office, dolling out snuggles and games of tug-of-war to her friends on the team.
49ers general manager John Lynch has seen how much the players enjoy being around Zoe, and is all-in on the smallest member of the organization.
“Every time I went by, there were more and more players in there, and that’s a good thing,” Lynch told The Athletic. “I mean, football is so all-in, to have a place for them to go and kind of unplug, that was a good thing. So I think I finally told our owner after a month. I said, ‘Hey, we kind of have this dog now and the guys really like it.’”
Moss registered Zoe as an emotional support dog, and now is looking into getting her certified as a therapy dog.
As the NFL starts to focus on the mental well-being of its players, Zoe is the perfect example of another thing teams can do to help their players combat the challenges the game and life brings.
No matter what happens on the field or off it, Zoe always is there to lend a wagging tail and soft kisses to Thomas and the rest of the 49ers.
Dogs are just the best.