Published in the Cavaliers as Companions in the UK
A DOG A DAY KEEPS THE DOCTOR AWAY!
by Leila Grandemange
Dogs are good for our health! This article demonstrates that our beloved dogs are truly miracles with healing paws! Shared from personal experience.
Dr. Cav awoke bright and early to make his morning rounds. First stop, Ma and Pa– [jump on bed, wag wag wag, lick, snuggle]–“Wake up,” urged Dr. Cav. “It’s a beautiful day, the sun is shining, and I’m ready for a fabulous walk in the fresh air!” His sleepy patients seemed to ignore him but he persisted: whine whine, whimper. . . “That did the trick,” he chuckled. While they were getting dressed he made his way to the kids room– [wag wag wag, lick, snuggle]– “Rise and shine!” “Oh dear,” he thought, “Sally doesn’t look too happy this morning.” As he nudged her for some reaction, she began to cry and mumbled, “It’s the first day of school, and I’m scared.” “OH, that’s all! I can take care of that” –[wag wag, wet kiss, snuggle, silly trick, drag her dirty socks over, wrestle with her stuffed kitty]. . . “There we go, she’s laughing!” Satisfied with her improvement, he hurried over to check on Ma and Pa. Shoes on, jacket on, snap on leash, we’re off! Dr. Cav led the way at a swift pace but paused now and then along the path to ensure his patients could smell the beautiful roses. “Ahhhh, it’s going to be pawsitively good day!”
There’s no doubt, our canine companions are good for our health! Believe it or not, some doctors are prescribing dogs over medications to help people overcome all sorts of illness. Powerful physiological effects take place in our bodies while we interact with our dogs, which enhance our quality of life. Are dogs the miracle pill? For me and many others, yes . . .
Coming home after surgery was the first step on a long road to recovery. Simple things like getting in and out of bed, walking, eating, and laughing were a struggle. Ordinary pleasures like letting my dogs jump on my lap for a snuggle or taking walks with the family were forbidden due to my incisions. Before long, I slipped into a dark hole and was joined by “depression” and his fearful counterpart, “anxiety.” They whispered scary thoughts as life spiraled downhill. Oh sure, I had visitors and my wonderful family, but who wants to hang out 24/7 with a bedridden, boring person who sees the world through dark glasses and needs constant reassurance from her fears? Doesn’t sound like fun company! But my dogs felt otherwise, especially one little Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who was allowed in my room due to her extremely calm disposition. She stayed with me night and day, only sneaking away for a quick potty, then rushing back. . . I can still hear her paws racing up the stairs to my room as if she knew her very presence sustained me. Instinctively, she lay quietly by my side, looking at me with endearing eyes as if to say, “I can feel your pain, I love you, you’re going to be okay …” My little furry physician, emotional support therapist, bright sunshine, and angel in disguise warded off my illness and pulled me out of that pit! Before I knew it, I was walking, talking, laughing, eating well, and healed! I got a first-hand lesson on why the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is referred to as a “Comfort Spaniel.”
Dogs are miracles with healing paws! We certainly feel better when surrounded by our canine companions, but what’s actually going on behind the scenes? The human-animal bond seems linked to a “feel good” hormone called oxytocin. Oxytocin is released in both humans and dogs when they interact, while playing, snuggling, walking together, or simply gazing in each other’s eyes. It’s also called the “bonding hormone,” “love hormone,” “happy hormone,” and “cuddle chemical.” It supports cooperation, social bonding, and feelings of wellness, happiness, calm, affection, and trust. Imagine that: those who live with dogs have access 24/7 to this “happy hormone.” Feeling blue? Call your dog. Seriously! Stop what you’re doing, sit, and snuggle with your dog. It truly is therapy!
Dogs are natural mood enhancers! Even 15 to 30 minutes a day with a dog reduces stress and anxiety. Cortisol levels ( a hormone associated with stress) are lowered, and serotonin ( a chemical associated with well-being) is increased. Reducing stress alone can enhance our quality of life, improve our relationships, and even increase our lifespan. Less stress can translate into a stronger immune system and fewer days off work due to illness. That’s why some doctors are “prescribing” dogs to people. Adults who own dogs average 1,700 more steps per day than non-dog owners. Dogs can be one of the only reasons some people get out and walk, socialize, sit in a park, or share their feelings. Dogs may also prevent illness by exposing us to dirt. The dirt and germs (reasonably speaking) brought into our homes by our dogs may enhance our immune systems and fight off allergies. Interacting with our dogs also helps to lower blood pressure, increase tolerance to pain, improve our social life, promote quicker recovery from surgery, and lift our spirits. Dogs can be essential to our well-being. I like to say, “A dog a day keeps the doctor away!”
Finally, I’d like to share the greatest “healing” gift I received from my dogs— unconditional love. To be loved despite my failures and flaws is priceless. Let’s never forget that it’s this very love that enhances our lives, heals, and restores. Why not heed the wise words of Dr. Cav? Live, laugh, and love like there’s no tomorrow. Enjoy each moment, greet your loved ones with enthusiasm and a smile, take time to run and play, stop and smell the roses, never let the sun set on your anger, forgive, and always remember: when you feel ill, take a dog and go to bed–you’ll surely feel better in the morning!
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QUOTES ON PETS AS HEALERS
“A pet is a medication without side effects that has so many benefits. I can’t always explain it myself, but for years now I’ve seen how instances of having a pet is like an effective drug. It really does help people.”
Dr. Edward Creagan Oncologist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN
“It is the intuitive power of animals that can help us heal hurts, lessen stress, feel needed, and express our caring side.” Marty Becker, DVM