It doesn’t come as a shock to anyone that I’m a “dog person.” This month, we celebrated Rico’s 3rd birthday (21 in dog years). In that time, the therapeutic affect he has had on my wife and myself has been pretty obvious. I’ve even suggested that he’s made me a better hypnotist. So I thought I would spend a little time talking about the healing powers of man’s best friend.
It’s wonderful getting to learn to love something like a puppy. From the moment I first got to hold him, I was in love with him. It was a crazy feeling for me, because most people that I love that much have benefitted me in some way. All he was able to do was lick my face and pee on my floor, yet that was enough to make me want to buy him the best food, pay outrageous vet bills, and let him scream through the night as we crate trained him. The first time he got attacked by another dog, it took my best friend an hour to talk me down.
However, my unconditional love for him is nothing compared to the unconditional love he feels for me. There’s a video on Vimeo about a special dog called “Denali” that I recommend if you’re looking for a good cry. In this video, there is a quote that goes something like “Imagine what it would be like if every time someone we loved walked into the room we completely lost our minds with excitement.” (I paraphrased because I couldn’t get through the video again.) Rico’s biggest flaws come from just wishing he could be closer to us.
I’ll never forget the first time we tried to train Rico to stay off the couch. He was getting to that stage of puppyhood where he wasn’t as easy to hold, so we felt like he should learn to lay on the floor rather than our laps. So when my wife gets to the couch, he jumps up, and she says “No, Rico,” and then puts him on the floor and says “Good boy!” Rico is a fast learner so it only takes about three cycles of this before he catches on to what’s happening. So he finally walks in front of my wife, leaves his hind legs on the floor, and puts his head and front legs in her lap as if to say, “You can keep me off the couch, but I’ll stand if it means I get to be a little closer to you.” I want learn how to love like this.
I’m of the inclination that it is my job to protect my dog and not my dog’s to protect me. I’m not saying that he wouldn’t protect me; I’m simply saying that I am his alpha and keeping him safe is my job (especially since he could be euthanized should he hurt someone trying to protect me). When I suggest security as a benefit to being a dog owner, what I’m really suggesting is peace of mind.
People and dogs alike are communal beings. So it’s no surprise that we may feel less lonely or more secure when we are in one another’s presence. Even the smallest presence backing you up or relying on you for security, can be just the extra motivation you need to feel secure. Even as I write this, Rico is sleeping by my side, and I feel better.
There was a break-in across the street just the other day, and while I’m not sitting in a state of paranoia, it feels good to know that if someone were to break-in on me right now I wouldn’t be going down alone. For all I know, he might just try to make friends, but his bark is scary enough to make most want to step no further. Honestly though, just having someone to snuggle with from time to time is enough to make anyone feel slightly more secure. After all, a dog can be just a security blanket that drools a little.
I’ve often joked that a dog is man’s best friend because a man would love to have a best friend with whom he doesn’t actually have to talk. The more time you spend with your dog, the more you understand each other on an intuitive level. My dog knows the difference between when I’m getting ready for a client and when I’m getting ready to take him to the park. Sometimes all I have to do to make Rico sit is look at him a certain way, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
After one of my best friends had surgery, he told me that while he was recovering, his dog would follow him across the house to make sure he was ok every time he had to get up. Once when my wife and I came home from a weekend out of town, we saw that the door to our old house had been opened. I was afraid that there might be someone still in the house, so I told my wife to wait outside if she needed to call 9-1-1, and I told Rico to come with me to make sure the house was safe (I figured how Rico entered the room might change how I entered the room.). He refused. Now, no one was in the house, and it had been blown open from a storm that happened while we were out of town. The point is that Rico refused because he knew how freaked out my wife was. He decided he would rather disobey his alpha to stay behind and take care of what he and the alpha both love the most. We should all aspire to such understanding of a moment.
Of course, you’re used to hearing these last 2 topics by now. To put it plainly, your dog needs exercise and so do you. Neither of our species was meant to just sit around all day. Take a high-energy dog, and don’t give him mental or physical exercise. It’ll become the most obnoxious animal you’ve ever seen. In the same way, if you aren’t exercising your mind or your body, stress is going to pile up and make you miserable.
While an active dog isn’t for everyone, it could become a means or motivation for you to get active. When we go canoeing, Rico swims along side the boat. We both get exercise, and it makes him so happy and easy to handle that I end up wanting to go on more fun adventures with him (and thus, get more exercise). I would highly encourage anyone thinking about getting a dog to get a dog that challenges you. So many studies have shown that pets make people’s lives more interesting. Get an animal that’s going to force you to be a better version of your self.
Dogs also have this wonderful way of putting you in the moment. That might be because while they seem to love so much, their lives are so much shorter than ours. Since they have fewer moments than we do, they naturally process them more fully. Also, dogs are wonderful at not having stupid distractions floating in the back of their minds. (Although, stupid distractions may end up being the only thing on their minds.)
That may sound abstract, but when you play with a dog, you might as well be the best person to have ever lived. When you come home from work, it must have felt like ages since he saw you. So when you take the time to pet a dog, really appreciate how soft his coat is. Imagine it making you as happy as much as it may please him. In doing so, use your ability to connect to your pet as a means to connect to yourself.