Man’s best friend can lift your spirits

Dogs make wonderful companions but before you invite one into your home, make sure you are ready for the financial and time commitment.

Considering taking on a dog for company? Your life might be impacted in more ways than you imagine. 

The known psychological and health benefits of that carefree, if dependent little soul appears to be nothing short of amazing.

Multiple research studies worldwide since the 1980s, conclude that the presence of dogs injects an intangible positivity to our existence.

There are even some indications that the inclusion of a dog or cat in our daily round makes us physically and mentally healthier, lowering blood pressure, reducing the threat of cardiovascular disease, extending mobility, boosting memory and reducing mortality rates.

Health services, including the HSE are even taking an interest in this puppy power. The science of pets and human wellness may be ongoing, but some things simply make sense.

As one of life’s veterans, there are multiple stresses in terms of finance and health concerns yanking our thoughts forward to an unknowable future. These are like colours animals cannot see.

Their inability to linger in the past or fret about even the next hour, presents lessons in mindfulness for us as their human companion. Living in the moment with a dog — seeing them explode with joy on a stretch of beach, offers profound joy for most owners. 

With your hand resting on the yielding head of a snoring dog, your thought processes slow down, allowing you to become completely ‘present’.

For anyone suffering from loneliness, anxiety or even depression, painful, negative thought patterns can be interrupted by a loving companion, distracting you rudely with a flipped over request for a belly rub with a panting wide ‘smile’.

Dogs demand physical affection. That welcomed touch, that weight in the lap or against your leg, can move emotional mountains. A long history of nurturing another living being can be deeply missed by singles, empty nesters, widows and widowers alike.

If you have haven’t had a dog for years, keep in mind that animal care requires compromises. Real change. It’s up to you to explore if you are ready for this camaraderie and commitment.

Costs include: insurance, from €150 a year; annual boosters, €45 to €60; microchipping, from €30; dog licence, €20; food, from €260 a year.

Once sheltered, loved and well, dogs demand a reasonable amount of routine exercise from their pack leader, depending on their breed or type. 

An enclosed garden is a must, but delivering that daily walk also is a positive here-and-now experience for both of you, increasing your physical activity and potential social interaction too.

Many owners are rightfully dog-proud. If you have taken a dog on from a charity there’s the comfort of knowing that this dog’s life has been changed utterly. 

Taking on an adult pet, an established character and manners are on show, and adoption often allows you to trail the relationship for your particular situation.

Ask the volunteers of any animal charity in the country — no-one can present love, care, accrued skill and full commitment to a mistreated or abandoned dog better than a retiree. If you find you have to part ways because of failing health many reputable charities will take the dog back and foster or re-home them appropriately.

Matching age and abilities goes both ways. Puppies are naturally rambunctious nuisances and hearty tripping hazards.

Yet an older dog with health issues, could be an unwitting money pit and present an early tragedy. Get advice from a vet or trusted friend with a background in dog welfare.

Breed characteristics are just a guide, and small dogs including the much-loved jack russell can be as over-powering as larger species. Look for the individual, and ask yourself if you could physically control that dog.

We all age differently, and may be more suited to care for a cat, bird or fish rather than a dog.

Whether it’s a Heinz 57 or a pedigree show stopper, make sure you start on the right footing.

Good lead and recall training, without strain on your wrist, is key to walks being rewarding safe adventures.


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