Just A Dog? You Decide


For whomever believes in God, you must also believe that those who save the loving creatures we call dogs from shelters are doing His work.  After all, we were taught, most of us, that God loves us and wants us to love our neighbor and other living creatures.  St. John wrote in the Bible of God saying, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

Well now, are dogs not our best friends?  I should think so.  They have often been known to lay down their lives to protect us.  Dogs teach us the greatest lesson of unconditional love.  Unless they’ve been trained otherwise and suffered abuse in some way, dogs are the most loyal and loving creatures on earth.  I’ve even been fortunate enough to have my girls (a/k/a dogs) know their healing powers.  Nine months after the tragic death of my late husband by suicide, I rescued two dogs from a No Kill Sanctuary.  Their soulful eyes empathize when we are in pain; their playful antics lift our spirits when nothing else can, and their fierce loyalty provides the safety, security and dependability that no human can.

Dogs teach us unconditional love in a myriad of ways.  They even teach us to love ourselves again unconditionally when our four-legged friends bounce back to self-love even after being scolded for misbehaving.  They don’t carry shame and embarrassment for chasing the cat, chewing a favorite shoe or pooping in the neighbor’s yard.

And dogs don’t hold grudges when we arrive home late and offer their dinner even later, or miss a scheduled walk.  They run up to us with wagging tails, nudging us playfully for affection and give those puppy dog stares so lovingly.  No need for forgiveness there as they haven’t judged us in the first place.  And they certainly don’t care that we as humans come with our specific flaws.  They forgive us.

They serve to teach us again what we learned as children, that being the importance of amusement, fun and play.  And they taught me specifically how to forget my anger, feelings of guilt and despair.

Scientists have discovered that animals have healing powers.  When you stroke a cat or pet a dog, you experience a surge of healing hormones and chemicals that produce feelings of peace and serenity.  [Edward T. Creagan, M.D. – a Mayo Clinic oncologist.]

In a feature article on WebMD, Jeanie Lerche Davis writes that playing with a pet may elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, lower cholesterol levels and increase immune function.

It has also been found that just petting and stroking an animal can help lower blood pressure and calm the heart rate.  This is because simply petting a dog, you can lower the stress and worries of the world.  And all that dog wants in return is love.

   A short while ago, I had a bad night for some reason.  Often my tears just begin on their own and I’ve no way of stopping those waterworks.  My little baby as I call her, Casey, is deaf so she could not hear me and had been fast asleep at my feet as were my other two girls.  She rose up suddenly, I imagine sensing my drastic mood change, and stared into my eyes for the longest time and watched those tears stream down my cheeks.  Then she brought her face close to mine and began softly licking the tears.  So softly she did this as though she were dabbing with a tissue.  And she didn’t stop until I was able to stop my crying.  As abruptly as she stopped, she stared at me again for a while and then brought her face up against mine.  She knew just how I was feeling and wanted me to know, it was going to be okay.  And she was right.

Words cannot express the love, peace and joy that my three girls have brought to my life.  In losing my husband tragically, I was given precious blessings in the form of three little white dogs who have been instrumental in decreasing my depression and PTSD.

If you’re suffering from depression or PTSD or other emotional problem, I urge you to give it a try.  Granted it’s an important responsibility and I suggest beginning with one dog.  (I have three dogs for reasons I’ll explain another time.)  You get love, affection, companionship, as well as a sense of worth and purpose, all wrapped up in a sweet furry little package.  What more could you ask for?

I Survived Dog Training Evaluation (and I’m healing too?)


 

Do You Know The Healing Qualities of Your Dog ?

Let the dog training begin!  Actually, there is more to it than that.  Before the dog training company (in my case All American Dog Training Academy) begins their training of your dog(s), they do an evaluation to establish what program is best suited for you and your pooch.  This evaluation runs approximately an hour to an hour and one-half and it can be in your home.  What a delight for me that was as I have two beautiful female Boxers, or a total of 100 pounds that I do not have to tote from my house to their company. 

The training evaluation for my Miley & Casey was performed by two young men in my home and my two girls were put  to the test.  The dogs were pretty worked out after the evaluation but they knew what was expected of them.  A very good evaluation! 

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“The potential for animals to be another form of alternative medicine is enormous,” says Elspeth Ritchie, a former Army colonel who just retired as one of the service’s top psychiatrists.

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After the Dog Training Evaluation, what’s next?  Well their motto is, “An education that will last a lifetime for you and your dog(s).”  They even guarantee this in writing.  A company I recognize as after my own heart. 

Now here’s another part of the having a well-trained dog, even just a good dog by your side.  I’ve talked in my blogs of the tragedy I suffered at the loss of my husband through suicide.  What you may not realize is that I was the one who found him and, thus, through this trauma have suffered some PTSD.  It is only after much research, and after I had already rescued and adopted Miley and Casey from a shelter / sanctuary that I discovered another important plus in my life. 

As researchers test high-tech PTSD treatments (such as hyperbaric oxygen chambers and virtual-reality exposure therapy), a low-tech alternative is emerging in the form of man’s (and woman’s) best friend.  Although the government has been providing service dogs to troops who have lost their sight or suffered other physical injuries, it is only beginning to look into whether these animals can improve the lives of those who are psychically injured.  The need for good treatment options is enormous:  some 40,000 troops have been physically wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq, but 10 times as many exhibit symptoms of PTSD.  Now this is a specific situation:  veterans with wartime PTSD and service dogs are required and used for these soldiers. 

However on a much smaller scale, my PTSD has had a dramatic effect upon me.  I have lately had good days – thus the reason for being able to rescue/adopt my two loveable Boxers.  But recently I had “one of those evenings followed by another one of those days” and it is dreadful, I assure you.  My girls are your normal variety type of loving canines.  And unfortunately I yelled at them for one of their slightest offenses, quite normal for any dog.  Almost immediately I began crying, wailing really and they instantly came up and kissed (or licked really) my arms and cheek.  I just fell into them, hugging them endlessly.  And I opened up to them telling them just why I felt this way, as if they were ‘human’ friends able to clearly understand.  And I felt better with my canine friends, although I sat a big pile of exhausted muscle and tissue. 

And I’ve been able to step out of my home more with the dogs rather than frightfully inside unable to do much of anything.  This is the same behavior apparently that soldiers are exhibiting with their service dogs, though on a much higher level. 

There is so much more too.  For instance, mental health experts have been looking into canine-centric therapies for years.  Sandra Barker, a psychiatry professor at Virginia Commonwealth University (and yes, she is used to all the jokes about her last name!), published a study in 1998 that found psychiatric patients’ anxiety dropped twice as much after spending 30 minutes with dogs as it did following standard therapeutic recreation involving art or music. 

And in March she published a study detailing the “buffering effect” dogs have on the stress experienced by their human partners, as measured through cortisol levels, heart rate and blood pressure. 

Given her findings, it’s not surprising that Walter Reed and other military medical centers have started stationing dogs on hospital floors to help calm patients.  “The potential for animals to be another form of alternative medicine is enormous,” says Elspeth Ritchie, a former Army colonel who just retired as one of the service’s top psychiatrists. 

Are you convinced yet of the healing quality of your dog?  I am!