Monday Author: Susanne Skinner
“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.”
~ Will Rogers
We’re dog people. This is for those people like us who come down on the canine side and think life is better with a dog. We’ve also had cats (we love them too) but our current household is home for two Dachshunds, and home away from home for our lab-pit bull grand-dog.
I’ve always had dogs. I grew up with them and life without one is a foreign concept. Ours are in the winter of their lives at 12 and 14, and although I can’t imagine our home without them I know one day they will cross the rainbow bridge. I spend too much time thinking about this. Our dogs spend a lot of time sleeping but when the weather is good they still enjoy the thrill of a run around the yard and barking at nothing in particular.
Having dogs means we are never alone in the house. Their companionship and comfort is constant. My little buddies can make the worst day better just by sitting with me.That’s the difference a dog makes.
Mans’ Best Friend
There’s a reason we call a dog man’s best friend. Canine companionship is well documented, going back thousands of years. A dog’s behavior, personality, and most importantly their unconditional love are characteristics that make them valued members of our family. They ask very little in return – only that we love and care for them. You can learn a lot from a dog.
Dogs don’t dwell in the past or worry about the future. They live in the moment, and in that regard have a lot to teach us. A dog knows no other time than now and in their own way show us how to experience and enjoy the present. Humans have a tendency to complicate things. We spend too much time in the weeds, thinking about what is to the left and right of the immediate. We lose sight of ourselves and what matters most. A dog’s unconditional love brings our focus back to the simplicity of everyday joys.
Dogs don’t know how to hold a grudge. How I wish humans were the same (myself included). They have the ability to let go and not clog their emotional arteries with old anger and hurt. They remember the joy of chasing sticks, treats from the jar on the counter, and how good the sofa feels..
Dogs enrich our lives, making us happier and more content. But there are additional benefits that come with dog ownership apart from companionship and entertainment. Owning a dog offers proven health benefits including physical, mental and emotional improvements in our everyday lives.
Research shows that it takes about 30 minutes with your dog to feel more relaxed and calm. Playing with your dog raises your brain’s levels of dopamine and serotonin; neurotransmitters associated with pleasure and tranquility that reduce stress and anxiety.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) have conducted heart-related studies on people who have pets.
Their findings show that pet owners exhibit decreased blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels—which can ultimately minimize the risk for heart attack. They also found patients who suffered heart attacks had improved recovery rates if they were also pet owners.
Don’t overlook the benefits of walking the dog. It’s like having a live-in personal trainer. You both get good exercise and keep each other active. As we age, movement is important to overall muscle tone and joint health and fresh air helps you both.
A dog is a special form of social media. They are great ice breakers and conversation starters, helping adults and children overcome shyness and make friends. For the introverts, a dog can give you a confidence boost and pull you a little further out of your shell.
Bonus points should be given to companies that support Take Your Dog to Work Day! It should be a workplace requirement, not a perk.
There’s a Dog for That
The therapeutic power of a dog is renowned. There are a growing number of organizations dedicated to training service dogs to help those suffering from PTSD, particularly veterans. Dogs have been proven so effective at helping combat anxiety, stress, and depression the government funds these organizations.
Dogs are also used as therapy animals for the elderly, those in hospice care and even those with dementia. They benefit greatly from Animal-assisted Therapy (AAT) or Pet-facilitated Therapy (PFT). Many hospitals and nursing homes use these types of programs on a regular basis. The assisted living community where my Dad lives has regular visits from a Golden Doodle named Honey.
People with autism, especially children, are often unable to filter out sensory input—they hear, feel and smell everything at once, and are unable to ignore or redirect those stimuli. With an autism-assistance dog they are given a focal point, or a way to ground themselves.
Dogs can be tasked-trained to use touch intervention, as well as pressure intervention and mobility assistance when compulsive, repetitive or self-injurious behaviors occur. The gentleness and love of an autism assistance dog helps by just being there.
In her book “Weekends with Daisy,” local author Sharron Luttrell documents the extensive training these dogs go through, as she becomes weekend trainer for a National Education for Assistance dog that receives weekday training at a local prison.
A dog is so much more than a pet. They are members of the family, in a unique and special way. Having a human is a special gift to a dog, and having a dog makes you a better human. Dogs wag their tails from their heart and you always know where you stand.
They love you because you are you. It doesn’t get any better than that.