The unconditional love that pets bring into our lives is unlike any other. Regardless of how ungrateful your kids were for the dinner you spent hours preparing even though your boss dumped a huge last-minute project on you on a Friday night, or in spite of the inconsiderate moron who ran over your foot with a shopping cart while trying to beat you to the last chilled bottle of Pinot Gris, that tail-wagging, tongue-lolling exuberant welcome home melts your heart every time. Our spirits are lifted when we look into those bright, soulful eyes, and we respond to the message they send: “I love love love you and everything will be fine if you just throw that ball! Throwitthrow- throwitalready! Pleeeeease?”
Is it just because we have “the” cutest, smartest, most loving pooch on the planet, or is there something more that makes us change vacation plans from an island oasis in the Bahamas to a pet-friendly beach house in the Outer Banks? Why on earth would we choose to stay home on the couch with our fourlegged child rather than hit the town for Girls’ Night Out? What compels us to—without question—move our mate to the other side of the bed to make room for Cuddles the Cocker Spaniel? It’s really quite simple: our dogs make us feel good. Great, even.
The social anxieties that plague human interactions don’t exist in our relationships with our dogs. We can be ourselves and be loved just for existing. Well, for that and for providing food, shelter and constant entertainment. Still, there’s a very pure connection between humans and their dogs that isn’t muddled by conditions or complications.
Let’s realistically break down a few reasons why our dogs are so dear to us:
They don’t judge us. We can eat ice cream directly from the carton using The Big Spoon, let our kids wear Halloween costumes to school in February and watch a 12-hour “Honey Boo Boo Meets the Kardashians” marathon. Our pups just don’t care. They don’t look us up and down and say, “Hmm, is it casual Friday on Tuesday again?” or exclaim, “Wow, you can eat ALL of that?!” while gawking at our plates in a buffet line. Our dogs see us at our worst and still lick our faces every morning and, for that, we adore them.
They aren’t threatening. We never have to worry that our Bichons our trying to steal our husbands while smiling in our faces. Concerned that your Labradoodle, whom you trained so well, is planning to usurp your position at work and snag that promotion that you worked so hard for? I think not. There are no caveats to a dog’s loyalty. This is so different than most human relationships which are fraught with if, ands and buts. Our guards are down with our pets, and we can care about them without fear of being rejected, lied to or betrayed.
They accept us, warts and all. Going back to before our kindergarten days, acceptance has always been essential across every age group and culture. Our dogs couldn’t care less if we have halitosis and horrible hair, if we can’t play sports or carry a tune. All we have to do to is be loved and show love, and that’s priceless for our human sense of selfworth and ego.
Plenty of evidence exists that the benefits of puppy love far exceed the superficial and that it can even heal. Rehabilitation facilities and hospitals using animal assisted therapeutic programs see wondrous improvements in the mental, emotional and physical well-being of their patients. Veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder find that their service dogs calm their anxiety and panic attacks and provide a sense of security so they can sleep peacefully.
The presence of service dogs in cancer treatment facilities offers a sense of tranquility to many patients. They aid in compliance in centers that keep service dogs as “staff.” Patients looking forward to spending time with the dogs are more committed to their treatment regimens. For many cancer patients going it alone, a faithful service dog can provide unfailing comfort and companionship that can make all the difference in their morale and spirits.
Service dogs also make a huge impact in the lives of autistic children. Experts find that the social hesitation that autistic children feel with humans often disappears with dogs. Families notice an increased vocabulary in their children because they are comfortable talking to their furry friend. In addition, these service dogs can be trained to track down an autistic child who has wandered away.
Puppy love is real and enhances our lives. The next time you find yourself spending $100 on that delightful sweater for your Chihuahua, or schedule an appointment for your pooch’s massage, don’t feel guilty, crazy or alone. Millions of us treat our dogs better than humans. Let’s face it: most of the time, they deserve it.
Resources: Smithsonian magazine, July- August 2012, Northwestern University Cancer Center, The Good Dog Foundation and 4 Paws For Ability.
Renee Ventrice is a devoted dog mom of Beemer Marsalis, and the Business Development Director for Woofie’s Dog Walking, Pet Sitting and Mobile Pet Spa. Woofie’s provides luxury pet care services in various towns in Loudoun County.