Well, let’s face it, life is just one kick in the pants after the next. I have noticed, however, that life is better with a dog (or three). Dogs are optimal companions, vigilant guardians, perpetual playmates, and even extemporaneous vacuum cleaners. Studies have demonstrated that these generators of joy actually reduce stress levels in their human companions.
I’m not sure how long it takes to complete one of these highfalutin studies, but after 40 years living with dog companions, I have some qualitative results of my own.
The first thing we appreciate is how they love us unconditionally. The feature photo for today shows puppy Duncan resting with me on our first day together. He had only known me for 45 minutes at this point, and the “best friends forever” journey was already underway!
Dogs have an innate ability to get you out of your head and live in the moment. This super power of theirs is contagious and decidedly effective. Before you know it, even you will be playing the anthropomorphism game (using the “dog voice” to narrate the current situation).
Keeping your pet active keeps you active. Walking or running with your dog is something they will never get tired of. If you are a Fitbit addict like me, your daily step count will double once you adopt or foster a new best friend. Hiking and swimming are especially fun, but they’ll do anything. Skateboarding, surfing, biking, raking, and sweeping are all fascinating to puppies. The jury is still out on vacuums and leaf blowers however.
Whether you are paying bills, arguing with your impossible step-mother, hiding from solicitors, or caring for a sick relative, the dog has got your back. They love you more than they love themselves. How they are able to effortlessly fulfill the soothing of our minds and hearts is still a total mystery to me. They are priceless, precious, and transcendent all at once.
True story: In early 2013, I traveled to Florida to be a caretaker while my mother battled cancer. She was 68 and had never really cared for dogs. Nitro was 4 at the time, and mom wasn’t too jazzed when I brought a 70-pound hairy beast into the house. However, it took all of 400 milliseconds before he stole her heart. Mom rallied from that initial cancer diagnoses and, until my dying day, I will attribute her initial recovery to Nitro. We did lose mom three years later, but the hospital doctor had initially said she wouldn’t last two weeks.
I’ve met some great people at the dog park and other situations where, in an attempt to socialize my pup, serendipitous socializing happened for me as well. Puppy playtime engenders a shared love for these knuckleheads, and subsequent visits with the commission of laughter tends to achieve community. Dogs are particularly a huge hit on patios at outdoor restaurants. Pet marts, hardware stores, the farmers market, and even ice cream joints are generally accommodating to leashed animals.
Dogs will change your life. Once you’re hooked on your fuzzy genesis of giggling and glee, it will infect your daily schedule, travel plans, peer preferences, and sometimes, even your sense of purpose. American writer and columnist Caroline Knapp reckons thusly: “Before you get a dog, you can’t quite imagine what living with one might be like; afterward, you can’t imagine living any other way.”
My pet sitting story began with Nitro. I couldn’t have done it without him. Nitro passed in 2020, but his memory still inspires me, and always will. Thanks to Duncan and Rex, I’ll have new stories to tell. Until then, please enjoy a quote on your way out.
“All his life he tried to be a good person. Many times, however, he failed. For after all, he was only human. He wasn’t a dog.” – Charles M. Schulz