Dogs are good for our health! Each time I hug my dogs I feel more hopeful, happier, and healthier!
I’ll never forget coming home after an appendectomy, having some complications, and spiraling into depression due to the ongoing pain. My doctors were amazing, and prescribed what I needed to heal physically. But emotionally, it was another story.
Dealing with depression was scary, to say the least. I had no idea what was happening to me, and didn’t have the tools to deal with it. Thankfully, I had an emotional support therapist that lived in-house, a few of them actually— my beloved dogs! My husband would choose one of my dogs each day, and carry him or her to my room to lay with me in bed. They were always so excited to see me and would nudge me and wag a million miles an hour as if to say, “Let’s play, let’s cuddle, what’s the plan for the day?!” While I didn’t share their enthusiasm, due to the emotional and physical pain, their cheery attitude gave me hope! My dogs were very smart too, they always figured out how I was feeling and would eventually settle down and adapt to my mood. Most days, they just lay their head on my chest and rested with me. Thanks to my dogs, I’m certain that I healed quicker, and was spared a prolonged season of depression!
I have no doubt that our canine companions are good for our health! Powerful physiological effects take place in our bodies while we interact with our dogs, which can make us feel more hopeful, happier, and healthier. Some doctors are even prescribing dogs to help people deal with depression and anxiety! The best part is, a pet is a medication without side effects, although I must warn you, they’re slightly addictive 🙂
“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
What’s actually going on behind the scenes when we interact with our dogs?
Interestingly, the human-canine bond seems linked to a “feel good” hormone called oxytocin, also called the “bonding hormone,” “love hormone,” “happy hormone,” and “cuddle chemical.” It’s released in both humans and dogs when they interact, while playing, snuggling, walking together, or simply gazing in each other’s eyes. It also supports cooperation, social bonding, and feelings of wellness, happiness, calm, affection, and trust.
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. Less stress can translate into a stronger immune system, fewer days off work due to illness, and quicker recover from surgery. Reducing stress can also improve our relationships, and enhance the quality of our lives in so many other ways! For example, adults who own dogs average 1,700 more steps per day than non-dog owners. I can testify to that. Some days, my dogs are the only reason I find to get out and walk! This was especially true while I was recovering from my surgery and trying to find relief from depression. Even a short walk down my driveway would lift my spirit!
I’m so grateful for my family, friends, and my dogs, who helped me to pull through that difficult season. One of the greatest healing gifts I’ve found is the loving presence of those who provide our care. That said, it wasn’t always possible for someone to sit with me when I wasn’t feeling well. This is where my dogs came in to save the day. I think when I was at my worst, one of my little doggies, a precious Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, sat with me 10-12 hours a day and only left me to go out to potty. I’m pretty sure she acted as my guardian angel, chasing away the darkness, depression, and feelings of hopelessness. This is why owners and their dogs who participate in pet therapy and visit hospitals and nursing homes are so important. They act like sunshine for those in need, offering a warm loving presence, unconditional love, and all the other emotional and physical benefits mentioned above.
I’ve heard it said that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” After experiencing how my dogs helped me recover from surgery, and overcome depression, I’d like to say;
A dog a day keeps the doctor away!
Pawz & Pray (2nd edition): Finding Joy in the Journey with God, Family, and Furry Friends! 130 Inspirational Stories and Devotionals for Dog Lovers.
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1st Edition Nominated for Excellence in Books by the Dog Writers Association of America— “the most recognized professional writing association devoted to dogs.”
“Leila’s book has been a true inspiration to me. It makes you focus on what’s really important in life. The author gives us great examples on how we can have a closer walk with God by following the lead that our pets give us in their everyday life. “Pawz & Pray” encourages us to put our worry and anxiety aside and take time to enjoy the things God has put right in front of us. This book has touched my heart in an indescribable way. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves animals and wants to have a closer connection to our Heavenly Father.”
– Holly Cornwell, Editor 2007 – June 2014, The Royal Spaniels
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