We all adore our four legged friends, but did you know they gift us the perfect prescription for a longer, healthier, happier life?
My Boston Terrier, Morris (aka Mo), is my hiking buddy and all around bestie, so I loved learning that there are even more reasons to be grateful for his friendship and affection.
A study from the American Heart Association cites that dog owners had a 24% risk reduction for death from any cause, and living with a dog had an even greater benefit for people with heart problems.
It’s no surprise that interacting with a pet boosts our production of “happy hormones” like oxytocin, and dopamine, so it only makes sense that being around animals decreases our cortisol levels that get activated by stress. My girlfriend took her Golden Retriever to special therapy training so they can visit hospitals to bring smiles to patients. That’s why it’s more commonplace to see emotional support dogs on airplanes and some offices are allowing staff to bring dogs to work.
In this month of Mental Health Awareness, it’s also timely to appreciate that animal assisted therapy is recognized as a treatment for depression and other mood disorders. A pet requires its owner to remain active, a sort of “social fitness” that keeps them from feeling isolated from society. As a trusted companion, they’re there for them even in those times when they withdraw from friends and family.
For all the cat lovers, just know your little furball is helping your heart. Studies show that people with cats are 40% less likely to have a fatal heart attack.
When it comes to the nature of dogs, Arizona State University psychologist and behavioral scientist Clive Wynne, delves into dog behavior with his new illuminating book “Dog Is Love: Why and How Your Dog Loves You”. Of all the 70,000 dog books on Amazon, Wynne offers up a different approach to what makes dogs special – their capacity to love, not how smart they are. Working with his mixed breed rescue dog “Xephos” he challenges the scientific point of view that dogs have a unique ability to understand and communicate with humans. He thinks what makes them so special is their capacity for interspecies love. Wynne says dogs have an abnormal willingness to form strong emotional bonds with almost anything that crosses their path, and they maintain this throughout life. Above and beyond that they have a willingness and an interest to interact with strangers.
Studies and statistics aside, to me, just like in life, relationships give our lives meaning. Caring and interacting with my dog rewards me a sense of responsibility and purpose. The master of being totally present, Mo is my greatest teacher. I never knew anything could be so thoroughly involved in the moment. Rolling in the grass, sunning on the rocks, waiting at the window, chasing lizards, or sniffing for crumbs, he takes it all in. Incapable of words, leading by example he encourages me to find curiosity and an openness, just by touching whatever I’m experiencing when I dare to enter fully. And when all the world seems out of whack or I’m in a funk, my man Mo is there wagging his stubby tail, unconditionally. I mean, who couldn’t love that smooshed face and those imploring buggy eyes? It’s like free love, with benefits.
This photo is my man Mo. I’d love to hear about your relationship with your pet. Feel free to email me at email@example.com. Our stories brings us closer, and I can share them in an upcoming newsletter.