Anyone who has ever been privileged to live with a dog knows the extraordinary power of a dog’s love and devotion. Imagine coming home from a hard day at work and being greeted by a four-legged bundle of fur who has been waiting for you all day. His tail starts to wag and his whole body bounces around with joy. One lick from him or petting on his head sends the memories of the day away. After a while, you wonder how you ever survived the rest of the day without his head laying across your lap or tail slapping you on the leg.
Pet therapy is in fact a very recognized and successful therapeutic tool. Pets of all types are frequently taken to nursing homes, hospitals and other care centers to offer the love that only they can give. I, personally, have witnessed this powerful tool’s effectiveness in 2 local nursing homes. I remember one resident in particular. This resident was aphasic and left unable to speak as a result of multiple strokes. She did not ever smile and demonstrated very little emotion. Reaction to others was frequently limited to a look of fear or anger in her eyes. This changed for short periods of time whenever miniature Pomeranians were brought into her room. This lady began petting the dogs and a look of love and recognition crossed her face. It was, in fact, difficult to see the dogs being removed from her room and watch her revert to her former withdrawn self. The power of dogs (as well as other pets) is indeed remarkable.
My husband and I were blessed with our own four-legged bundle of love for almost 16 years. Anyone who knows me very well has heard stories about Fred (aka ‘Freddo’). Freddo was the runt of the litter and was discovered dumped in the Scott county river bottoms by my younger brother. He was on the bottom of the pile and was the smallest in size. Once brought home, it took him a while to adjust to being without his siblings. Eventually, however, he did adjust and became a valuable member of our family. Freddo was proof that the breed of dog does not affect the level of love and devotion that the dog can give. He was a mutt and seemed to love both of us unconditionally. Freddo died in January of 2010. He suffered from cataracts, had difficulty hearing and had difficulty moving around. Old age had caught up with him and it was just his time to go. To this day, my husband and I have confessed to each other that we will occasionally look for him whenever we return home. Our ‘good ole puppy dog’ will always have a place in our hearts. Once again, the love and power of dogs is remarkable.
Years ago, I clipped the following column from Ann Landers that I believe sums up how special dogs are…and how we humans can learn a thing or two from them. It first appeared in the San Pablo Catholic Church bulletin. Ann thought it was good enough to print in the newspaper. I feel it is still good enough to share on-line.
‘If you can start the day without caffeine,
If you can get going without pep pills,
If you can resist complaining and boring people with your troubles,
If you can eat the same food every day and be grateful for it,
If you can understand when you loved ones are too busy to give you any time,
If you can overlook it when something goes wrong through no fault of yours and those you love take it out on you,
If you can take criticism and blame without resentment,
If you can ignore a friend’s limited education and never correct him,
If you can resist treating a rich friend better than a poor friend,
If you can face the world without lies and deceit,
If you can conquer tension without medical help,
If you can relax without liquor,
If you can sleep without the aid of drugs,
If you can say honestly that deep in your heart you have no prejudice against creed, color, religion or politics,
Then, my friends, you are almost as good as your dog’.
Don’t forget to celebrate National Dog Day with your favorite dog on August 26th. Dogs (and other pets) are truly one of life’s greatest pleasures and gifts.