Sunday, 21 January 2018

How my dogs have changed my life

As a young child, I was always desperate to have a dog. Every Christmas and Birthday, top of my wish list was a puppy, but every year I would wake up on my birthday or Christmas morning to find no puppy. Looking back in retrospect, I can totally understand why my parents didn’t cave in and buy a dog until we were much older because they’re a lot of work and commitment. We bought Alfie, our Golden Retriever, first. A lot of planning went into it – we researched dog breeds for weeks so we could make sure we were choosing the right breed for us, and then had to look for a reputable breeder. We went to see him when he was only a couple of weeks old and brought him home when he could be separated from him Mum. A few years later, we had started to think about getting a second dog (well, my sister wanted to get one but as she still lives at home we all had to discuss it). She was desperate to get a King Charles spaniel, so, again, spent weeks researching them and looking for a breeder. And then a friend of ours, who is a veterinary nurse and often brings home abandoned animals, posted a photo of Freddie (or Little Dave, as he was called then!) on her Facebook page, saying that he needed a home. We went round to see him to work out if he would fit into our family, and ended up bringing him home with us. And the rest is history!

As I mentioned, getting a dog (like any other animal) shouldn’t be a decision taken lightly. A lot of work goes into looking after and training them, you need to be able to afford their food, toys, vets bills etc. and they are also a tie when you want to go out or go on holiday. But despite all these considerations, they are also the best thing ever and I can’t imagine our home without a dog. So when I received an email from Puppy Spot a while ago with a little info graphic they had put together about the health benefits of having a dog, I thought it would be a good opportunity to share these health benefits with you and also talk about how my dogs have impacted my life.


As you can see in the graphic, dogs can really benefit our cardiovascular system by lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, which I think is pretty darn awesome. While I can’t give you any scientific proof of how my dogs have impacted my life in this way, I can definitely testify that they help me to feel calmer and less stressed, which has got to be a good thing. If I’m ever feeling stressed out or upset by something, a cuddle with one of my boys just seems to help that stress fizzle away. Freddie especially will come and sit on my lap when I’m sitting on the sofa, and he will fall asleep. There’s something about having a warm little ball of fluff curled up on your knee, breathing gently, that just helps you to slow down your own breathing and chill out a bit.


It’s pretty well known that animals in general can help to reduce anxiety and feelings of isolation and loneliness. I think the mental health benefits are the ones I have noticed most with having Alfie and Freddie. I really struggle with anxiety and depression, and like I mentioned above, having the dogs around me can really make a difference. There have been times when I’ve been curled up on the sofa, struggling to communicate with people and feeling very bleak. But when Alfie or Freddie come up to me and give me a little lick on my hand, it’s like there’s a connection there that helps bring me back into the room. They are also brilliant at reducing feelings of isolation and loneliness. I don’t go out with the dogs very often, but since getting my electric wheelchair it has become a little easier. And it’s amazing what a conversation starter having a dog can be! If I’m out without Alfie and Freddie, no one will ever really talk to me. But if I’ve got them with me, other dog owners will stop and chat, and even people without dogs will often strike up a conversation.


One reason I’ve heard a lot from people considering getting a dog is that it will help them get out and exercise more. With having to use my wheelchair to get out and about, I wouldn’t say my dogs get me exercising more, but they certainly get me out and about a lot more. It’s nice to have an excuse to get outside and go for a wheelchair ride in some of the beautiful parks and woodlands we have nearby. Dogs are also meant to boost the immune system, which makes a lot of sense. My Dad is the one that walks Alfie and Freddie the most, and he is rarely unwell!

I can’t actually remember what life was like without Alfie and Freddie, but I’m 100 per cent sure it is better now than it was back then. Seeing their happy little faces and wagging tales greeting me whenever I come in the house and having constant snuggles on tap just make my life so much better. They just feel like such a central part of our family and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Do you have a dog as part of your family? How have they changed your life?

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