I love my dog! I can’t say that for most people. I don’t even like most people.
The first dog (greyhound) that I got as an adult in 1998 lowered my blood pressure, erased my depression (Prozac be damned!), and helped me lose weight. I became more active, more social, and had a reason to get out of bed in the morning. My dog Painter stood at my bedside and barked; no further need for an alarm clock.
As I look around me now to friends and acquaintances who are self absorbed and/or depressed, I want to scream GET A DOG. I guess you can get a cat too but you can’t walk a cat. Perhaps a cat will let you pet it…maybe.
Over and over I hear that petting a dog will lower your blood pressure and calm your heart rate. Why? Petting a dog releases endorphins. What are endorphins? Well, according to Wikipedia which is as good a source as any, endorphins are endogenous opioid peptides that function as neurotransmitters. Endorphins are produced during exercise, pain, consumption of spicy food (?), love, and orgasm. Best of all, endorphins resemble opiates in their ability to produce a feeling of well being.
Ah, my dog is like a drug. I like that. There’s no co-pay. I’m not hallucinating and he’s legal. Everybody, let’s get stoned…on dogs.
So we know that pets are good for our health – lower blood pressure (mine was 106/73 last week), avenue for more exercise and developing routines, exercise helps lower stress and depression, stressful situations may diminish if a 4-legged friend is by your side. My dog makes me laugh several times a day. Laughter is still the best medicine and you don’t need an overpriced prescription.
Studies have shown that patients who have dogs have better emotional health than their counterparts. Dogs offer unconditional love and affection; their presence alone helps reduce loneliness for sick people who otherwise are isolated. People with major illnesses have shown that the stress of fighting the disease is significantly reduced when they had a cat or dog as company. People want to get well so they can be a better friend to their pets.
According to recent studies published by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology pet ownership goes beyond health benefits to social and psychological benefits for “everyday people.” Comparing pet owners to non pet owners, the former had greater self-esteem, more physically fit, tended to be less lonely, more conscientious, more extroverted, tended to be less fearful and less preoccupied than non-owners.
So if you want to expand your social circle, get a dog. You can make new acquaintances at the dog park, through pet therapy opportunities, and volunteer with rescue organizations which in turn increases your feelings of belonging, improves self esteem, and makes your life have a meaningful existence.
(Photos are courtesy of John Clark who is a dedicated volunteer for Arizona Greyhound Rescue. This is Petey who recently retired from dog racing. He is one cool dog and will make an adopter very happy. The bottom photo shows Petey’s goofy side to Cindy Hall, also a dedicated volunteer and greyhound adopter.)