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It seems to me that, besides having a child, one of the most rewarding things you can do is share your life with a dog. Some of my best times have been spent with dogs!
No matter what your financial situation, a dog will love you. No matter what your ethnic group or religion, a dog will love you. No matter whether you are ugly or beautiful, cranky or pleasant, ignorant or intelligent, a dog will love you. Dogs just love unconditionally.
When you are the best friend of a dog, she will give you love and undying loyalty. She will protect you. She will make you laugh, and, whether you like it or not, help you stay (or get) fit. She will be your bestie when some humans won’t. You can tell your dog your deepest secrets and KNOW they are safe.
In most cases, your dog, Fluffy will simply be another member of your family.
The Benefits of Having a Dog
Stay Active and Get Fit
People in the Health industry stress the need for exercise. They suggest amount of time to devote to that goal is around 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. If you have a dog, that’s a walk in the park! (Yes, pun intended!) It’s a cinch that, on ANY day, Fluffy walks faster than you, so you get your exercise, Fluffy gets hers, and the two of you have a great time together.
Retained Mobility as You Age
According to an article by Kathy Kruger and Dr. Sandra McCune, Mars Petcare, on https://www.geron.org(The Gerontological Society of America):
“Maintaining health and physical mobility is an important component of preserving independence, and in a longitudinal study of 2,533 older adults (aged 71-82), dog owners were more than twice as likely to maintain their mobility over a 3 year period than non-dog owners, and they were more likely to walk faster and meet the recommended guidelines for physical activity. Pet owners over age 65 are also more likely to maintain their activities of daily living, such as climbing stairs, preparing meals, and bathing independently. Dogs, in particular, appear to help keep people active and provide a reason to get up in the morning.” (emphasis added) (The Roles of Pets In Physical, Emotional and Social Well-being, p. 15, https://www.geron.org/images/gsa/documents/TheRoleofPetsinHumanHealthyActive_Aging.pdf)
They say that walking is the best exercise, and doing it every day helps a person lose weight. If you have a dog, one of the things you get to do with him or her is walk every day. Dog-walking forces you to do moderate physical activity – often for as long as 30 minutes. Walking your dog has a twofold value: it is exercise and it fulfills one of your responsibilities to the dog.
Improves Your Social Life
Just like in the movies, a guy walking his dog is considered sensitive and caring – very attractive to women. By the same token, if a woman has her own dog, it presents an opportunity for either to start a conversation. EVERYTHING starts with a conversation!
Simply petting a dog can increase oxytocin (the stress-reducing hormone) and decrease cortisol (the stress-inducing hormone).
Getting “stressed out” can lead to higher blood pressure. If your BP gets too high, it can be very serious! Studies have found that people who took care of a dog for just three months had a significant drop in stress and lower blood pressure. (Wouldn’t it be great if you could take your dog to work?)
Adds Meaning And Purpose
When you have someone (e.g., your dog) to take care of, as stated above, it “provide(s) a reason to get up in the morning.”
4 Ways A Dog Can Change Your Life
Improve heart health
As we discussed earlier, having a dog “forces” you to be healthier because you have to get up and out and do things besides just sitting on the couch, watching television – although you totally CAN do that, but why waste a perfectly good opportunity?
But, really, studies have shown that having a dog (unless it’s that dog from Marley and Me) makes your heart stronger, lowers blood pressure, reduces cholesterol and decreases triglyceride levels. Better yet, people who have dogs who DO have heart attacks recover better.
You certainly can’t be lonely with a dog around. You cannot focus on yourself, when someone else is clamoring for your attention. How can you feel “down” when Fluffy wants to play? Or she’s climbing over your body like it’s a bridge to somewhere? Or she’s nibbling on your toes?
Therapy dogs are very effective at easing depression for old and young people, healthy people, as well as people who are sick.
Although I am not doctor, it seems to me that a dog can lift anyone’s spirits: both by the things they do as well as by their loving presence. Just having “someone” there means you’re not alone; the way they snuggle with you in bed is comforting; and dogs are funny.
Save Your Life
A dog can save your life by alerting you to possible health problems. Medical professionals believe that owning a dog (or having regular access to a dog) can help treat debilitations and even manage many illnesses.
Some dogs have been trained to sniff out cancers (e.g., prostate cancer, skin cancer, bladder cancer, and kidney cancer). (LiveScience.com: 7 Surprising Health Benefits of Dog Ownership, by Iris Tse, MyHealthNewsDaily Contributor, November 30, 2012 – https://www.livescience.com/35463-seven-surprising-health-benefits-dog-ownership-110209.html)
Service dogs have benefited people who have brain injury, autism, Rheumatoid arthritis. These animals have helped people increase mobility and helped them gain access to independence.
Dogs have soothed people with Alzheimer’s. Their companionship seems to make emotional flare-ups less painful.
Rescue dogs have found people in perilous locations and conditions and saved their lives.
A Few of the Responsibilities of Having a Dog
When you adopt a dog, it is for life. Depending on the breed, the life expectancy of your new friend is anywhere from seven years (large breeds) to 16 or more years (small breeds). That means, for example, if you move (and you can’t take Fluffy), you have to find a place that is amenable to your friend.
Here are a few other responsibilities:
Provide a Suitable Environment
This is one of your main responsibilities as a pet parent. Among other things, this includes making sure he lives in a dry, comfortable area that is clean and quiet. (Dogs like peace and quiet, too.) It means setting regular times to go to the bathroom. It goes without saying that your dog will need a place to exercise and play – as well as to meet other dogs. It is up to you to be sure your dog is in a safe place, so he/she won’t be afraid. Recognize that, as an intelligent being, your dog can get bored, so provide chew toys and treats. As well as being intelligent, they are curious, so his environment should be safe, secure and hazard-free. For his own safety, see to it that he is under control at all times.
Make a Commitment
As I said earlier, the day you bring Fluffy home, you are making a commitment for 7 to 15 years. Make arrangements for Fluffy just as you would for your child. She is as dependent on you as your son or daughter. Be sure that, if something happens to you, a friend or other family member will adopt her. At all costs, assure that she has a good new home.
When the owner of the building where I live threatened to evict me because (he said) I had a dog (that’s another story!), a friend helped me find the puppy a home. It took us two weeks of talking to this one and the other before we found a single father with two little boys who was willing to take her! It’s been a couple of years, now, and they love her and everyone is happy. And she still remembers us!
Weigh all the pros and cons before you decide to have a dog. Think about the cost. Think about the time you will pass with him/her. Think about the space available inside and outside (if you have an “outside”) your residence. Think about the size of the dog and how much food you will have to possibly store for him/her.
Based on all that, decide how many dogs you can rescue – or whether you can rescue ANY.
Be sure, if you do choose to have one, that your dog is spayed or neutered.
Respect Your Dog and Other People
Isn’t Marmaduke a hoot? Well, his antics wouldn’t be so funny if he lived next door, would they? Who wants their dog to be “that dog” in the neighborhood that everyone dreads dealing with?
Avoid that. Respect your dog and your neighbors by training your dog – not to bark or whine incessantly when left alone (then don’t leave her alone all the time); not to leave the yard (and secure your yard so that action is impossible); not to dig holes; not to jump on everyone who visits.
Along those same lines, pet dogs need to learn how to act “in Society.” They need leash training – and pet parents need “pick up the poop” training.
Your dog is, for all intents and purposes, another of your children (or your only child), and you want to be proud of their behavior when they aren’t with you. It is one of the responsibilities of pet parents to be sure their “kids” are properly trained before they go out.
Protection and Care
Fluffy needs more than food, water and a roof over her head. Just as she will love you unconditionally for the rest of her life, she needs you to be “in her corner,” too.
Protect her from dangers inside and outside the home, from larger animals that might see her as prey (i.e., dinner), getting too much rough-housing from the kids, other pets, and natural disasters, among other things. Remember that, like humans, dogs are social creatures. Would you like to be left alone day after day, maybe in one room, with no ability to get out, for hours on end? No, and neither does your dog.
Dogs need exercise – at least a walk every day. Really, a person who can’t do that much/little, should not have a dog. When you walk your dog, you should pick up his/her poop. Whether you “enjoy” doing that or not, the laws in many states require it.
Like I said earlier, Fluffy needs to be trained how to act “in Society.” That means she needs to learn how to act at home with the family as well as how to act in the outside world. She needs to be taught how to interact with other humans and other dogs. She needs mental and physical training. She needs to be shown “the Rules.” That’s your responsibility.
She also needs (at least) annual health care. Your Vet can help you schedule vaccinations and preventive treatment, as well as any recommended temporary treatment.
And as she gets old, you will also be required to make quality of life decisions. Just so you know: all of this is not a matter of choice. It’s a law: Animal Welfare Act of 2006.
Yes, all that sounds costly, but we all know pets do cost money. According to The Dog People (rover.com), the annual cost of having a dog is $3,370. That includes the one-time expenses, the ongoing expenses, the annual vet appointment and unexpected expenses. (The Dog People: The True Cost of Getting a Dog, by Kate Jaffe – https://www.rover.com/blog/true-cost-of-getting-a-dog/)
Pet health insurance is an excellent investment that should be given some consideration.
Value Penguin, Inc. did an assessment to find the average monthly premium for dog insurance: For a 4-year old, male, neutered Labrador retriever, with no pre-existing conditions, the premium was $42.45 per month. That covered a $500 deductible, $5,000 annual max and 80% reimbursement level. (Average Cost of Pet Insurance: 2019 Facts and Figures, https://www.valuepenguin.com/pet-insurance/average-cost-of-pet-insurance)
Before you say “Sure,” when the kids say, “Mo-ommmm, can I have a dog?” you should probably think about putting away some money first – so you can afford it.
A Few Negative Points of Having A Dog
Sadly, a dog isn’t right for everyone. Every year, for example, many seniors find themselves in the ER with broken bones, sprains, bruises and lacerations due to falls involving dogs and cats.
For some reason, women are more likely than men to be injured in a dog-related fall, but both experience slips, trips and spills while walking the dog, and both men and women have had an instance of losing balance while walking their leashed dogs. Of course, everyone has been knocked over by a dog.
Back in 2009 the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) reported that over 86,000 falls occur annually, with 88% caused by dogs.
If you’re older and tend to have problems with stability, one way to avoid pratfalls is to get yourself a lap dog.
Finally, allergies, rabies, parasites, various worms and bacteria from feces can translate to an abundance of problems for humans.
3 Simple Solutions
This isn’t an exhaustive list; just one or two simple things we can all always do.
Wash Your Hands
Cleanliness is a great deterrent to the spread of disease and infections. Adults and children should wash their hands with soap and water after playing with dogs. Immediately clean any scratches or bites.
Pick up Feces and Dispose of It
Immediately pick up and properly dispose of your pet’s feces. This is vital in children’s play areas. Be diligent about this to prevent the spread of disease to humans and other animals, as well.
Get Your Dog Vaccinated
Keep your dog on-schedule with his vaccinations. An annual visit to your veterinarian can ensure your dog is healthy. It will also prevent infectious diseases.
Taking the proper precautions lessens the likelihood of a human actually catching a disease from a pet.
A Thought: “A good plan executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” George S. Patton