Attention Pet Lovers: A Dog Can Make You Happier – and Healthier!
I have a new puppy, and little Sally is keeping me on my toes.
Libby, my small poodle/terrier, was a stellar companion for 17 years – my kayak buddy, canoe tripper, and enthusiastic hiker. When I swam down the lake, she’d follow me along the shore, running out on each dock to supervise me on my route. I miss her. It was a sad day when she left me.
I finally decided it’s time to make the plunge again – to fill the void left by Libby ’s absence.
I hunted and hunted online for a non-allergenic dog, and I finally found a quality breeder with the right dog for me. I could have done a rescue, but this is the route I chose. I wanted to be sure she was non-allergenic and that she’d be trained the way I wanted.
Of course, there are lots of reasons NOT to get a dog. They take time. They need to be fed and walked. You have to train them, and you need to find someone to care for them when you travel. The worst part, of course, is that they don’t live long enough.
But – there are more reasons to get one. Dogs are loyal companions. They get you out walking. They keep you entertained. And – they love you unconditionally.
Not only that, but studies have shown that owning a dog can actually improve your health and lengthen your life. Who knew?
A study done in China showed that dog ownership significantly lessens the incidence of cardiovascular disease, even more than owning a cat.
The reason for the discrepancy might be the fact that dogs need walking, while cat owners often keep their cats in. I have a friend who has a leash for her cat but walking a feline is less than easy.
In addition, a review of combined studies between 2005 and 2019 of nearly 4 million individuals showed that dog ownership was associated with a 31% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 24% lower risk for all-cause mortality as compared to non-owners. Is that impressive or what?
Another advantage is that petting and playing with a pet releases endorphins (happy hormones) at the same time as it decreases cortisol (the stress hormone). Because of these positive effects, many psychologists use animal-assisted therapy to relax their patients.
There’s nothing like having your own in-house pet therapist to soothe your rattled nerves – or just make you feel good.
Dogs can help detect injuries and cancer. When we brought Sally home, she was immediately drawn to our older dog’s left paw. He’d split a nail chasing after a squirrel, and it hadn’t healed. Jake didn’t like her sniffing it, but it showed me that she could smell the injury.
I remember, too, that Libby would nose out any injuries I had, and she’d also hop into my lap when I was particularly sad or upset.
There are countless stories of people whose dogs have detected cancer before they experienced symptoms, and dogs have also been trained to detect a drop in blood sugar for diabetics.
If you’ve ever walked a dog, you know that it offers countless opportunities for meeting other people – neighbors or strangers, dog-lovers all. Many a friendship has been sparked by dog-walking interactions, and you might just be the recipient of such a connection. Thanks, pooch!
It’s a rare dog that doesn’t enjoy the daily walks, and I’m determined that Sally will be as enthusiastic about kayaking and canoeing as Libby was.
I just took her out for her first kayak ride yesterday, and she enjoyed it. On the way back, she was determined to hop into the lake, oblivious that the ice had just gone out a few weeks ago.
I had her leashed to the kayak, and I grabbed her back end just as she launched off the side of the kayak. An icy dousing of her head and front paws cured her in an instant. She spent the rest of the trip shivering in my lap. She’ll learn.
I look forward to many years with my new little minx. She and Jake have become great buddies and love to romp and roll together, though he outweighs her by 50 pounds (she’s a whopping five pounds now).
It warms my heart, and I think having her around will keep Jake young – yet another advantage of our new puppy.
So – if you have a dog already, you’re lucky. If you don’t, you might consider taking one on. I highly recommend it. Who else will take you out, improve your health, and love you unconditionally?
Are you a pet lover? Have you had a dog? What breed do you prefer? How has your dog improved your life? What is your favorite activity with your canine? Please share with our community!