“Dogs have a way of finding people who need them…and filling an emptiness we didn’t even know we had.”
Dogs love and accept us unconditionally. We are the center of their universe. All we have to do is show up and they’re ecstatic. Our family and friends, they may be happy to see us, but never that happy. Being adored so completely probably fills us up more than we realize. Dogs give so much and expect so little. And they buffer us from loneliness.
Research has found that when humans and dogs look into each other’s eyes they both get a boost of oxytocin, the ‘feel good’ hormone, also known as the ‘love’ or ‘cuddle’ hormone. No wonder why we’re so bonded to each other!
Dogs can bring out our playful side. Have us rolling in the grass, laughing our heads off. Acting silly and forgetting to make dinner. They can immerse in the present moment easier and quicker than any meditation class can. By just being their own silly selves we can be silly, too, and feel the tension of the world fall away.
Like so many of you, the love I have for my dog is immense and I can’t imagine life without her. What is it about our precious companions that make them so special to us?
Extensive research only confirms what we already know firsthand. Dogs calm us down and being around them and petting them relaxes us. Their companionship brings us comfort and a sense of security. Walking them and taking them to the dog park makes us move more (which is good for our bodies), get outdoors more (which is good for our soul) and interact more with other people (which is good for our spirit).
Perhaps it’s the simplicity of it that binds us to them so strongly. Unlike many of our personal and professional relationships, we know exactly what it takes to make our canine companions happy, and it isn’t much – love, attention, food and exercise. Dogs are easy to please. I’ve always loved hearing stories from clients whose well-being is enhanced significantly by their pets. Sometimes I joke that the world needs more dogs and fewer human therapists but there’s definitely a part of me that believes this, too.
Approximately 37% of Canadian households have at least one dog and about 30% have at least one cat. Homes all over the globe have furry friends, of course, but millions of companion animals still enter shelters each year and millions more are out on the street as strays. To the shelter care workers and advocates who dedicate so much time and love to animals, we are deeply grateful for the tremendous work you do!
Aside from being awesome companions, how about all the hard working dogs out there dedicated to helping humans in need? We’ve always relied on dogs to be our protectors but we call on them to do so much more, too. Their loyalty and work ethic is remarkable.
There are guide dogs, hearing dogs, and service dogs specifically trained to assist people with autism, seizures, severe allergies, diabetes and mobility issues. Many dogs specialize in mental health support and help veterans recover from post-traumatic stress disorder, calm people with anxiety disorders, and remind others to take medication on time. There are police dogs, search and rescue dogs and military dogs, too. And finally, we have therapy dogs that provide comfort and affection to people in hospitals, retirement and nursing homes, schools, and disaster zones. What on earth would we do without dogs?
A transformation takes place in people when a dog enters the room. Just watch the smile it brings as the joy bubbles over. There’s a reason they’re called man’s best friend and we’re so lucky to have them in our lives.
Are you a dog lover, too? This month’s theme at Hope Café is dedicated to our furry friends and we welcome you to share your comments, stories and photos with us by:
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Yours, as always, in hope,
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Donna Sales is a Registered Psychologist and writer living in Calgary, Canada. Her website is www.donnasales.ca. She is the founder of Hope Café.