Happy New Year 2019!

Another year has come upon us and the first month of 2019 has already passed us by!  As we start the New Year off, I think about the lessons learned in the past year, the current status of my life and the goals I want to accomplish in the future. I know I always think about:

-wanting to eat healthier

-wanting to get more exercise (and returning to my yoga class)

-wanting to extend myself to others or do more frequent random acts of kindness

-practicing meditation, prayer, and positivity (in attitude) more regularly

While these are all admirable goals that we could strive toward every day, one change my family decided to make at the beginning of this year was adopting a dog from a dog rescue agency. We had been discussing getting a dog for months and I had a very specific idea of the breed of dog I wanted- a Labradoodle or Goldendoodle. I had seen a few of these dogs recently and I thought, “They look so adorable!” We began to research dogs on-line and then, started to discuss the wisdom of adopting as there are so many just as cute and adorable dogs in various shelters and rescue agencies as there are through breeders. The first Pet Smart we visited, we saw our dog, named Deogo. We looked at other dogs there and even went to another Pet Smart to see what was available there. But we came back to the first dog we saw and were lucky enough that he had not yet been adopted. We felt so lucky and knew we would love him forever. (As he did not respond to his name, we later changed his name to Tobi.)

Since adopting Tobi, I have noticed the benefits for myself of feeling more relaxed and calm, enjoying the atmosphere in the home of having a pet in our family, and always being greeted with such enthusiasm and joy at the end of each day. While there are so many wonderful benefits of dog ownership, I do confess that I notice I must vacuum my house more often, but this is a small price to pay for a loving, affectionate, and always accepting dog.

Some Benefits of Dog Ownership:

1.) Allergy fighters: Since we are always disinfecting, we have been exposed to a less diverse combination of germs, our microbes’ genes are confused. Having a dog in the house means more diverse bacteria in the home (and inside of us) and resulting in less sickness in pet owners.

2.) Helping meet new people: A 2015 study in PLOS One found that dogs can be a catalyst for meeting new people and keeping current friendships and social contacts thriving.

3.) More Exercise: Numerous studies have shown that having a dog results in being more active and having a more regular exercise regimen than non-dog owners. Dogs need to be walked and knowing this, we tend to be more active to keep our pet healthy and happy. This alone may lower our risk of cardiovascular disease.

4.) Increased Happiness: A Washington Post article in September of 2016 discussed how dogs help us to feel better. Wayne Pacelle, the CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, brings his beagle mix, Lily to work with him each day, which helps to calm and relax him. Petting our dogs decrease our anxiety and slow the heart rate, as well as increase our oxytocin levels. Oxytocin is a natural hormone that helps stimulate social bonding, relaxation and trust, and lowers stress.

5.) Companionship: Living alone can be very difficult for some, particularly the elderly. Having a dog provides a sense of companionship, a basic need for connection which promotes both happiness and healthy aging. Two long-term studies (one at Harvard and the other at the California based Longevity Project) that followed Americans from childhood to old age found that social connection can stave off illness and add years to one’s life. These individuals (who were more engaged with both people and animals) were happier and had better longevity.

6.) Teach children responsibility and kindness: having a dog in the family can add to the responsibility for the family but also teaches important and valuable lessons to children. These include lessons such as feeding, playing fetch or training the dog to sit, stay or roll over. Dogs provide a sense of safety, love, and protection while also teaching children responsibility and sometimes, serving as a child’s first friend.

Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts on dog ownership and let me say before closing, Tobi is my first pet ever…I wonder why I waited so long?


Linda Cook