Experiments in Happiness: Dogs

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This is something that I know makes me happy; having a dog.

I grew up with dogs and have owned two Golden Retrievers as an adult. I haven’t had a dog for three years, and I’m not sure that now is the right time to make a commitment to a dog so for the moment I am fostering. Dogs are a lot of work, but then again, they have plenty of knock-on positive benefits as far as health and happiness is concerned. With fostering I’ve no long term commitment past a month. If you’re unsure about taking on a dog long-term but are able to foster for a short period then it’s a good idea to get an insight into what having a dog is like. There are also organisations like Borrow My Doggy  where you can dog sit for weekends or take a dog on regular walks, or you can volunteer for organisations like The Cinnamon Trust and walk a dog for a sick or elderly person who would be unable to keep their pet otherwise.

Here’s why I think a dog is a great idea if you have the time, space and money to make that commitment:

  • You have to put another being before yourself. This really helps if you’re down and you feel you can’t do anything. You have to get yourself up, you have to get yourself out for the sake of the dog who is relying on you completely. Fostering the dog has seen my teenage son getting up at 6am to let the dog out, and going on long walks most days. Previously, nothing else would ever move him to do either of those things.
  • The dog is on a schedule, even if you’re not. It expects certain things (getting up, walking, feeding) to happen at certain times. For me it forces a routine which is something I find difficult, but very beneficial.
  • With a dog, you walk. How much exercise a dog needs depends on the breed, but with a spaniel, at the moment I walk a lot. He needs at least an hour of walking every day. Sometimes it’s frustrating, but I suppose I could get a dog walker if I needed to. At the moment the dog walking time is replacing the time I spend at the gym and I think it’s much better quality in terms of overall health. It gets me out in nature in all weathers and I finally feel like I am in touch with the world again, with the seasons and the passing of time. I can’t really explain it – it’s being outside in the woods and fields I suppose. I’m noticing things I don’t usually have time to notice and going to places that I haven’t been to for years.
  • On the walks, I meet other people walking their dogs. Sometimes we just say hi, sometimes we walk together. So there is a social aspect to having a dog; most other dog owners are friendly and happy to share their experiences or just stop for a chat.
  • The dog makes me laugh. He snores (check my instagram account for a video), he jumps around like Tigger – now I know why they call them Springer Spaniels. His joy in nature is clear and catching. He just loves being outside, he’s happy about it and he makes me happy about it too. A ball is pure ecstasy for him; the most exciting thing ever.
  • I work from home, so when my kids are at school I’m on my own for the day. I have three cats, but they don’t interact the same way that a dog does. Sometimes it can be too much; he follows me every time I get up at the moment but I think his insecurity will pass over time. Overall he’s good company and helps me to feel secure.
  • I find the smell of a dog, while sometimes a little overwhelming, quite soothing.
  • The dog is always happy to see me. Even if I feel down, even if I feel like I’ve been hit with the ugly stick, it doesn’t matter. The dog doesn’t care about any of that. He is accepting of me no matter what; that’s a special gift that only a dog brings.

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