Friday, June 14, 2024

Columnist Robert Hawke Asks, “Want a Better Life?” His Answer: Get a Dog!

I envy my dog. He has the best life of any creature I know. In his last incarnation he must have saved a bus load of children from careening off a bridge to deserve the life that he has now. It’s nothing short of incredible.

You see, my wife and I are working towards retirement. We are dreaming of a time when we don’t have to hustle to pay the bills every month and we can relax, put our feet up and breathe out.

Our dog has that now. His life is so good it’s like he’s living in a 24-hour spa. Seriously. He lounges on his spot on the couch between the two of us, he gets treats in the morning and in the afternoon and everyone who sees him tells him how wonderful he is. In fact, he lives like Johnny Depp between movies. From where I’m standing, A dog’s life looks pretty great.

The connection we have with dogs goes deep. Our ancestors used to hang around the campfire and throw meat to wolves who then became our hunting partners. Somehow that strategic arrangement between two fierce species has evolved into a situation today where my five-pound Yorkie, Thrasher, is carried from pillow to pillow in my house. Despite that princely treatment, he still thinks he’s a tough guy. He still barks at night when he hears something and if I get up quickly to look outside, he springs into action and growls like the fearless warrior he is.

Pets are clearly doing well in this arrangement, but believe it or not, we do better.

They are terrific for our health, especially as we get older. Having a pet around lowers our blood pressure, improves our heart health and lowers our chance of depression. Am I pulling this out of my canine’s ear? Nope. There is a book published by Harvard Medical School entitled Get Healthy, Get a Dog that explains the solid medical benefits of having a canine. Dogs are enthusiastic, empathetic and in it for love. Also, they tend to listen well. Who doesn’t want a companion like that?

Ever see two dog owners meet on the street? They freak out, they tell stories, they compare notes, in fact, they ooh and aah like parents, or dare I say it? Grandparents!

Pampering pooches is the right and duty of every dog owner. Photo: Flickr/Creative Commons, Diana Courtright.

Occasionally, we get glimpses of our fury companion’s bravery. A summer ago, we were at my brother’s cottage on his dock and I jumped into the water. My wife was on the dock with Thrasher. He has had no experience with big water at all. So, when I jumped into the river without warning and disappeared, he freaked out. First, he barked in alarm and then without further thought he dove in after me.

From his point of view, I was in grave danger and needed to be saved. Never mind that I am well over two hundred pounds and he is barely as big as a six-inch sub. Never mind that he had no idea how deep water worked. He jumped first and asked questions later. In about two seconds the roles reversed and I was picking up a sputtering, straggly dog and taking him back to the dock.

You could say that that was just a funny moment between a dog and its owner, but to me it was a lot more. He thought I was in mortal danger and he did whatever he could to help me. To me it felt like an act of complete selflessness, loyalty and frankly, bravery. Who doesn’t want that in their life?

Having a dog in your life has ample health benefits, like lowering blood pressure and reducing depression. Photo: Flickr/Creative Commons, Taylor Bennett.

If that isn’t enough for you, consider this: Dogs are so good for us that a physician I know actually prescribes getting a dog to some of her patients who are getting older. And why wouldn’t she? With benefits like improved heart health, lower blood pressure, reduced rates of depression, and a built-in companion to watch Netflix with, her recommendation is a no-brainer.

There are some side effects though, there is the occasional visit to the vet and I have to admit that picking up poo is now part of my daily ritual. But all things considered, I’ll take it. Even the pure entertainment value is enough for me. And if there is ever a noise in the middle of the night, it’s good to know that my five-pound dog who thinks he’s a wolf, has my back.

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