Why am I a human-animal bond evangelist? Because of dogs like this little Chihuahua, China Girl. She has been doing her best to give enough love to her papa to help balance the grief he is feeling for losing his wife to a brain tumor.
Dogs like her come in a tiny package, but manage to display an enormous quantity of fierce love and compassion. How does she know he'll benefit from her expression of love? Is there a smell we give off that only they can detect? We've seen the stories of dogs sniffing out drugs, low blood sugar or even cancer cells.
Dogs make us human
Given the connection I feel with my dog Cleo, I wasn't surprised last year when I read how new research showed the bond between humans and dogs might be more ancient than previously believed, going back not 10,000 years but three times that figure.
Appreciate the benefits
If you page through the posts across the Grouchy Puppy network, you'll see our focus is on how the human-animal bond is demonstrated by dogs and those who love them. There are stories every day about dogs who assist us, guard us and play with us. It's not a myth. Dogs make our lives and communities better. Remember the comfort dogs who visited Sandy Hook after that horrible tragedy? How about the dogs who visit school and public libraries as part of free reading programs? These furry buddies encourage our children to discover a love for books.
More hospitals are allowing certified therapy dogs down their corridors and into patients rooms. Why? Because animal assisted therapy is shown to make us healthier, and happier. The oxytocin hormone increases in both the dog and the human during a petting session, causing our heart rates to slow and blood pressure to lower. On a personal note, experiences with my elderly diabetic dog has helped me better understand and appreciate my elderly father's life with diabetes. Given his laconic view on the topic, my empathy has grown significantly since my dog's diagnosis. By dealing with her day-to-day issues related to her diabetes, I'm grateful that I can better understand what my father is dealing with.
Broaden the conversation
It's been four years since I began concentrating on the subject of the human-animal bond here. A reason I chose this area was to counter the ugly online narrative about dogs that was all the rage in 2009. Stories about dogs biting children, being shot or abused were common. If dogs weren't causing mayhem then they were clowns. Back then I knew just by looking at my own dog that the internet had a big gaping black hole. Where were the Google search results that included positive, hopeful, and loving dog-centric stories?Where?
I intended to shine a spotlight into that black hole every day by sharing stories about how the human-animal bond was being demonstrated everywhere. I wrote about my life and my dog. In 2010 I began a weekly interview series sharing animal lovers from all walks of life. Dogs touch our lives in many ways and I was determined to share those stories far and wide.
My mission today is to elevate the conversation between people and groups about adoption and senior dogs. Let's move away from making assumptions about certain dog breeds and toward a more holistic view that all dogs are good. Whether you self-identify as an advocate, activist, dog breeder or whatever, all dog lovers are welcome and encouraged to join in the conversation!
Canine Mystery: How Dogs Became Man's Best Friend (NPR.org)
Therapy Dogs (Wikipedia)
Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) has the world’s largest database of human-animal bond related research