Nothing beats the happiness you feel when a wagging tail and wet nose greet you at the doorstep after a long day at work. No matter how terrible the day, those loved-filled doe eyes are sure to make you feel special. They are all about loving you unconditionally. It is as American humour writer Josh Billings once said: “A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.”
For all that this furry creature is, he has earned himself the title of ‘man’s best friend’. The friendship that began thousands of years ago has stood the test of time. Once upon a time, man mainly depended on dogs for hunting and security. In turn, the animal got food, protection and shelter. With this symbiosis, dogs eventually became an integral part of man’s life. Today, a dog is much more than the animal man domesticated. Dogs are companions, caregivers, and healers. But above all, they are a source of immense joy.
No wonder numerous studies have been conducted to understand how dogs manage to make our lives feel so good. According to a study conducted by UK-based Mental Health Foundation, companionship with a dog can improve mental wellbeing in humans. Just sitting with a dog or patting its head can make any individual feel calm and relaxed. IT professional Mrinal Shetty can vouch for this. He says, “I love dogs but could not have one due to lack of time. When I quit my job and was at home, I started feeling lonely and sad. That was when I decided to get a dog. Having Charlie by my side has made me a happy, energetic, and positive person.”
Imagine having a furry friend you can cuddle every time you feel stressed out. It is perhaps the most natural therapy. Even a study conducted by Stanford suggests that having an animal companion can ease stress to a great extent. Researchers have gathered evidence that suggest the company of a pet animal can have the same effect on us as meditation and exercise.
“According to a study conducted by UK-based Mental Health Foundation, companionship with a dog can improve mental wellbeing in humans.”
With all the wellbeing canines bring, it is not very surprising that they are trained as therapy dogs. They have proved to be a blessing, especially for army veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Such canines are known to help ease symptoms like hyper vigilance, fatigue, numbness and nightmares PTSD causes. Take army veteran Robert Soliz for instance. He had served in Baghdad and was traumatised to an extent that he could not even hug his children. He found his life back after he spent time with the therapy dogs at Paws with Purple Hearts programme in the United States.
We know dogs are extra vigilant. Many of us feel safer having them around. So, when a PTSD patient wakes up from a nightmare, seeing a dog in the room can be especially reassuring for him/her. The dog’s vigilance then replaces the buddy system of the armed forces. Moreover, dogs love taking commands. This nature of dogs helps army veterans who are not accustomed to the non-authoritative ways of civilian life. The canines ease the veterans’ lives by willingly taking orders from them.
Besides, dogs keep their owners generally more active. Army veteran or civilian. any dog owner will attest to the fact that they get their daily exercise when they take their pets out for a walk. But apparently, dogs can help improve immunity too. A study reveals that children who live around pet dogs have lower chances of developing eczema than those who steer clear of furry pets.
That is not all. Researchers have discovered that when a person is in close contact with a pet dog, their oxytocin levels get elevated. Oxytocin, which is also known as the love hormone or the hug hormone, is the same hormone that is released when a mother is in contact with her infant. No wonder the owner is able to form a loving and nurturing relationship with his or her dog.
Apart from benefitting us physically and mentally, dogs can change our lives for good. They may not live to a ripe 80, but within their short life, they teach us the virtues of loyalty, kindness, and unconditional love. Clearly, dogs can make us better people, even as they improve our overall wellbeing.
Inputs from Shilpita Roy