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Have a Heart. And a Dog.

Posted in Health

Ottie and Portia
Portia and Ottie

A couple of days ago, walking back from retrieving the trash cans from the bottom of my driveway – a despised but necessary evil – I stopped to observe my dogs engaging in a bit of problem solving. They had heard one of the neighbours’ horses whinnying from an unexpected direction and  were curious to see what was going on. Unfortunately, trees, a fence and a low wall impeded their view. Portia climbed to the highest point she could think of and stretched her neck – still not good. Ottie pondered the problem for a few seconds then, counter-intuitively, marched down the slope, circumnavigated the wall protecting the propane tank, hopped on a conveniently placed crate and, from there, climbed to the top of the low wall. Mission accomplished. For a few minutes, I put everything else aside and immersed myself in my very own National Geographic documentary.

My dogs are not special. Every dog owner has experienced moments of wonder and admiration for their pets. I will never forget sofagirl the first time she saw Jack: “I was buying some plants and they were having a pet adoption fair and this dog was lying there, so forlorn. What do you think? ” Get the dog, I counselled her. You will thank me later. She went to the shelter days later, where the dog was still waiting to be adopted: neither of them has looked back since. Now, every Sunday, Jack participates in our Skype sessions and I can smell his happy farts through the screen.

We all know what animals can do for us. To quote Jimmy Connors “Dogs are my therapy”. I couldn’t agree more. And, as of this month, the American Heart Association also concurs. For the first time they went on record saying that owning a pet, particularly a dog, is good for you. First and foremost because it gets you to walk (unless you are one of those LA people who pays a dog walker) but also because it lowers your stress levels. In one study involving 48 stockbrokers suffering from hypertension, they were all given medication but half of them were also given a dog or a cat. Six months later, the group that had adopted a pet were noticed to be remarkably calmer in the face of stress, especially when around their companions (source NY Times and American Heart Association).

IMG_3473
The fierce Jack

At the end of a bad day, coming home to two expectant faces and wagging tails would lift anyone’s mood. During a bad time in my life, when all I wanted to do was lie on the floor feeling sorry for myself, the daily routine involving bodily functions and meal preparations for my pups, were the metaphorical kick in the butt that kept me going. And, at night, if and when I can carve a little corner for myself on the couch amidst the two beasts, I can feel all tension melt away the moment their heads nod off in my lap.

What if you don’t have a dog and are not in a position to own one? There are always marathon sessions of Cesar Millan’s The Dog Whisperer on TV or animal documentaries on the Nature channel. Nothing like watching crocodiles in the swamps to put life in perspective.

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9 Comments

  1. silvia
    silvia

    I think that Jack and the Ottie’s one day should meet, they are sort of relatives…

    June 20, 2013
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    • I would love that but that would mean one of them getting on an ungodly long plane ride. For now, they have to be limited to skype sessions!

      June 20, 2013
      |Reply
  2. Oh how I agree with every word you’ve written. Dogs are wonderful family members – I’ve had dogs all my life (including two boxers in Zambia who looked very like your two). My kids have also grown up with dogs, and when a child has a problem, or is sad or in disgrace (!) the unjudgemental love from a dog is very soothing.
    Now I am living in downtown Beijing and my dogs (a Border terrier and a Cairn) have had to go and live with my elderly mum and I miss them sooooo much. However since Dad died two years ago they have been terrific companionship for her, she says she wouldn’t be without them. BTW despite reports to the contrary, very few Chinese eat dog…the South Koreans though, thats another story.

    June 1, 2013
    |Reply
    • Very true what you say about children’s relationship to dogs. Never thought about it that way. And I am so glad you are dispelling the myth of Chinese eating dogs. I always wondered. They don’t seem to be popular as pets in the east.

      June 1, 2013
      |Reply
  3. Glenis
    Glenis

    Our Boxer Dog Honey” did a similar thing but on a very regular basis. We had a high boundary wall. But next to the wall was a stack of bricks. She used to leap onto the bricks when bored and then could see into the street and watch the world go by. Doggy TV.

    June 1, 2013
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    • I have heard so many stories of Honey from Sue! She definitely left a mark in her heart

      June 1, 2013
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  4. Oh, yes. And I love walking him, on Topanga trails, including up by your part of the canyon! What a wonderful way to start the day, spending a half hour with this interesting and fascinating creature, seeing the morning through his eyes. It puts everything in perspective.

    June 1, 2013
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    • If only I could learn to live in the moment the way dogs do…

      June 1, 2013
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  5. Yes, I agree. Though our three are often pains in the derrière, looking into their eyes, seeing their funny faces gives me such pleasure. Makes the piles of poop worth it!

    I thought the line about Jack’s happy farts was funny!

    I woke this morning to Achilles having a fart fest! Thank goodness for Febreeze!

    The picture of your babies is adorable.

    June 1, 2013
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