Hello friends! As I said in a previous post I’m a brand new empty nester and am still adjusting to this new phase of my life. It is very gratifying to see how well my daughters are doing, and in particular my first time college student! So it’s all good for them which definitely helps my adjustment process, but it’s a process and I have moments in which I kind of look around like something is missing. Well, in this case it’s two SOMEONE’S who are missing, and as I tell people it’s just WEIRD. That’s the word that best describes my feeling about this new phase.
So anyway, as I go through this process of getting used to life without my girls I find that I am getting a lot of comfort from my dogs. That’s not unusual for me, I’m a crazy dog lady after all, but I have been comforted by their presence even more than usual. Just looking at them helps me to feel better. I was surfing around on the internet the other day and I came across an article in Dr. Becker’s newsletter that talked about that very topic. Dr. Becker is a holistic veterinarian who has teamed up with Dr. Mercola (a holistic doctor) to dispense advice and sell products. In fact I highly recommend both doctor’s newsletters! Dr. Becker’s article talked about the emotional benefits of owning a dog and here they are!
1. Dogs relieve our stress- Dr. Becker mentions how many hospitals now have dogs come in to visit with patients, and schools that bring dogs in during finals to help relieve stress associated with both hospital stays and exams in schools. Last spring Purdue University had dogs and their handlers come in during finals week for students to come and pet/cuddle. Jacqueline went over and spent time with the dogs and she said it really helped her feel better and less stressed. She got straight A’s last semester so clearly the dog cuddling time helped her rock her exams!
2. They encourage us to exercise- Dogs need more exercise than just letting them out to do their business and wander your backyard. I don’t care how big or small they are, and how many other dogs or cats they have to run around with, they still need to exercise or they will become overweight and bored. Our little dog, Chewie, is a perfect example of that. He started to gain weight over the winter when I wasn’t walking him as much, but worse than that he got bored. Now, for Chewie boredom is NOT a good thing. He started to chew on things, get into things he wasn’t supposed to, and in general he became a nuisance. I learned that I HAD to take him on a walk each day to really wear him out so he wouldn’t get into trouble. The benefit of that was that I got out and walked with them, because they obviously can’t walk themselves. Now, if walking isn’t your thing you can throw a Frisbee with your dog, throw a ball, run, swim, and pretty much anything active that you like to do your dog would LOVE to do with you. If your dog moves and you move with him/her, it’s a win-win!
3. Dogs increase our “happy” hormone- Dr. Becker quoted a study in which they tested dog owner’s amount of oxytocin when they looked into their dog’s eyes. Oxytocin is the hormone that increases when we kiss or hug a loved one. It’s also stimulated during breast feeding, sex, and giving birth. What they found in this study was that the amount of oxytocin in dog owners continued to INCREASE the longer they gazed into their dog’s eyes. No wonder I like to look at my dogs all the time!
4. Dogs have the ability to heal us- Dogs are known to be helpful in those suffering from PTSD, depression, autism and various disabilities. Therapy dogs are utilized to aid those with various ailments. The number of illnesses that dogs can bring about healing for hasn’t been fully explored yet, and new ways dogs can help heal us are still to be discovered. The bond between human and dogs is very complex and in some ways deeper than the relationship between humans. I could’ve told you that!
5. Dogs help us in our relationship with other humans- A study showed that when you bring your dog along with you to different places, you are more appealing to others. It showed that 95% of study participants found people in the company of their dogs to be more approachable to members of the opposite sex. Guys did you hear that? Bring your dog along if you want to meet girls! I always meet people when I’m out walking with my dogs in the neighborhood. In fact, I just met a nice woman and her bichon this morning on our walk and we exchanged numbers to go on future walks together. I’m sure that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t had my dogs with me. Thanks Chewie and Delilah!
So anyway, the upshot is that dogs are a great source of comfort and love for us, especially when going through stressful events. If you’re going through some stress, gaze into your dog’s eyes and feel your oxytocin levels rising! Also, just a 10 minute walk with your dog can ease your stress and give you some exercise too! Enjoy your dog, get some exercise, ease your stress and live a life of vitality- like Valerie!