If you have ever petted a dog in your life, you will need no scientific studies to tell you that it’s beneficial for your health and well-being. You don’t have to be a scientist or get scientific proof to feel the calm descend when you get to spend some time cuddling with a dog. However, if you do desire some proof, there is plenty.
One recent study was conducted by British Columbia University of Okanagan. During this experiment, 284 students were assigned different interactions with a service dog and then had to rate the changes in their feelings and emotions. Some of those students were allowed to spend time cuddling with a dog, others were seeing a dog, but not touching it, and a third group was interacting with dog handlers only, without a dog present. And guess what, even though all three groups reported no negative feelings, only the group that were allowed to interact with the dog reported significant improve in well-being and mood. So here goes the proof.
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But even without such studies, we all know that interacting with a canine companion, even if it’s just somebody else’s dog on the street, is always a pleasant activity, healing even. This is why service dogs are allowed into the hospitals, senior homes, and assigned to people with various disorders, especially when calmness is needed.
I have always been a dog person and having a dog saw me through many tests that life had for me. I moved to US from Europe at a tender age of 21 and was totally alone, besides a few friends that is. So I got a German shepherd puppy as soon as I could. Sure, I worked all the time, so it was not the best time for a puppy, but we both survived. I lived alone in a questionable part of town, but always felt safe walking with him even late at night. Often times late at night, after work in a restaurant, was the only time we could be together. I would let him off the leash and we would play hide and seek. He was amazing at that!
I had that dog for 12 years, until he died from cancer in my arms. He was with me when I dated, when I met my future husband, on my wedding day, he moved with us to our first house, saw us bring home two babies, and moved from Georgia to California with us. And let me tell you – hugging that dog and crying in his neck took place many times through the years and it always made it all OK. I always knew there is a soul that loves me no matter what and things will be fine one way or another.
It took me 3 years to be ready for a dog again, and only because kids really wanted one. And so now we have a young Portuguese water dog to cheer us up. Marlo is very cuddly and very ‘huggy’, but he would not protect anything or anyone. He also doesn’t yet understand that when somebody is crying in his neck, he needs to lick the tears. That’ll come with age, I hope.
I am always enjoying watching kids see him grow and develop their relationships with the dog. He is the first thing they see when they wake up, because I use him as a natural alarm clock when it’s time to get up for school. And they get up with smiles because he is ready to lick them to death. He is also the first thing they see and hug when they get off the school bus, because we come to greet them. And finally, he is also the last thing they see at night when they are in beds.
The previous dog was old when kids were small, they don’t really remember him, but this one will stay in their hearts for life. He teaches them love for all animals and he’s there when they just need a hug. I feel like my son can focus more after he cuddles with a dog. Marlo is always there waiting for hug and play time, and it’s very comforting to know that. Dogs are definitely the best natural medicine for all the heartaches and for bad days. I hope my kids grow up knowing that.