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Bella the poodle

(Image by TSL)

If you don’t own a dog, at least one, there is not necessarily anything wrong with you, but there may be something wrong with your life. (Roger A. Caras)

Bella, the fluff-bucket is in doggie hospital as I write this. She woke up this morning very wobbly and unable to walk. A far cry from her usual morning licks and kisses. Frankly, it was a little scary. We don’t yet know how serious her problem is. 

I am not coping very well.

And, because I am not really thinking about much besides my lovely little Bella today, you get a post about what I’ve discovered since she came into my life…

Bella on the Spit to Manly walk

Bella on the Spit to Manly walk
(Image by TSL)

Bella was originally LM’s dog. He had her when we first met. I remember actually being disappointed that she was a Poodle. I thought a more ‘dog-like dog’, something like a Staffie’, would have been better than a fluff-bucket like her.

I no longer feel that way. Of course I love her because she is uniquely herself. But there are some added practical benefits to choosing a miniature poodle. She doesn’t shed. She doesn’t drool. She’s very neat and clean. She’s intelligent. And, she doesn’t scare wee kidliwinks at the park. And – despite the fluff – she is still very much a dog-like dog.

Petting, scratching, and cuddling a dog could be as soothing to the mind and heart as deep meditation and almost as good for the soul as prayer. (Dean Koontz, False Memory)

Bella in repose

Bella in repose
(Image by TSL)

Did you know that owning a dog comes with added health benefits?

Dogs are hugely affectionate. They love nothing more than a really good cuddle. Dr Alan Beck, director of the Center for the Human-Animal Bond at Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine and his co-researcher Aaron Katcher found in the early ’80s that when people interact with dogs, “[they] actually get a drop in blood pressure – a true relaxation response”. And, researchers in Japan found that when dog owners just met their dogs’ gaze, they experienced a spike in oxytocin – a neurotransmitter that helps us cope with stress.

Dogs are social. And fluffy miniature poodles attract kids. Guaranteed. When you’re walking with your dog, you meet people. They are conversation starters. A 2000 study found that someone walking with a dog had three times as many social interactions than when that same person walked alone. Pretty amazing, I reckon’.

And, since I’m currently on the Autoimmune Protocol, and stress management is a big part of the programme, let me also say that owning a dog is GREAT for helping to manage stress. According to Alan Beck, “[playing with your dog] keeps you in the moment. So when you’re talking and playing with your dog, your mind is not free to worry. We intuitively try and do this anyway – we listen to music, we sit in a coffee shop, we watch TV – just to keep our minds focused on what’s going on right now. But if that focus is nature or an animal, it’s that much easier.”

Dogs force you to take time out of your day. And, they love to play. Bella’s favourite activity is when LM and I take her to the park (together!) and she can play with her ball. There are days when I really don’t want to do this, but I just know how disappointed she will be if we don’t go. And, I always feel better for having done it. There’s something about being outside playing with a dog that makes your problems seem less significant.

And, dogs don’t care how silly you are. As with small children, playing with dogs allows you to remove some of your inhibitions.

Of course, it’s a no brainer that owning a dog also forces you to exercise every day. Dogs will never willingly turn down a walk. So, in addition to lowering stress levels, walking your dog can give you a stronger heart, lower blood sugar, more restful sleep, lower cholesterol and better memory.

For me, the very best thing about Bella is the unconditional love she gives me. At the markets on a Saturday morning (where stall-holders know her by name), when I return from picking up my veggie haul, she greets me as if she hasn’t seen me for a week. And, nothing beats the excitement of a dog greeting you at the door when you return home. And, that joy is infectious.

Bella on the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk

Bella on the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk
(Image by TSL)

I had never had a dog before Bella. I didn’t realise how life-changing a dog can be. Now, I can’t imagine life without her. Here’s hoping she’s on the mend very soon…

Update: Bella has returned home from doggie hospital. X-rays and bloods have been taken. She has been diagnosed with spondylosis (she has a bone spur on one of the vertebrae of her spine) and probably moved in an awkward way that cause her significant pain.

We’re supposed to keep her quiet and walk her on the lead for the next three weeks. She will not be happy! 

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