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5 Benefits of Dogs

July 23, 2013

Ok, so there are lots of scholarly and not so scholarly articles out there about the benefits of dogs and mental health. When I was training on team USA, there were times when we would visit one of the Olympic training centers. About once a week a person with a “therapy dog” would show up, and hang out in the grass. All us love-starved athletes would flock around and get some old TLC from the golden retriever on hand. WebMD and other discuss how Pets Help with Depression, including:

  1. Offering uncomplicated love
  2. Getting you off the couch and “empowering” you with responsibility and routine
  3. Touch
  4. Social interaction: its easier to start conversations with random people in the park
  5. Better health? lower heart rates? … and other benefits

I was about to write this lovely post about how vulnerability and openness can help build friendships. And how a nice neighbor in the park offered to help walk my dogs. And isn’t the world a lovely place after all…..

…until the dog just went shit in the other room.

All to say the dogs came home this weekend from the dog sitter.  Even though I theoretically can’t be walking yet, I also very much can’t afford another 700$ for pet care for the rest of the month of crutch-time. Dogs are expensive. It is hard to find housing that accepts dogs at all, not to mention has easy access to outside. Not to mention, if one of the dogs happens to get scared or excited sometimes and relieves himself in the hallway on the way out.  They require being at home by a certain time from work. They require getting up at a certain time on weekends. They require love and affection, and really don’t understand it when you want to yell or shout just for the hell of it. (which is not cool: taking anger out on your dog, just because you are angry feels like the yuppie version of child abuse, which is REALLY not cool).

When its 2 am, and your girlfriend is blissfully asleep, and they wake you up scratching and panting, and whining…these are the times when I wonder if I am up for the responsibility of dog ownership. Then (particularly if its 2 am) my mind starts spinning wondering if I can’t handle two very affectionate dogs, perhaps I can’t handle my girlfriend’s love, whose dogs they are, or if I am not ready for love at all, or worse, will never be fully capable of being in loving relationship, not to mention having kids of my own eventually…….and so the self diatribe ensues.

Ugh.

Ok this is when I remind myself that self loathing worry is not healthy and generally unwarranted. While I can’t stop feeling those things, I can use my conscious brain to count the positive things that are going on, and be grateful for them:

  1. I had the energy this morning to crutch to work. While I was exhausted by the time I got there, it was still good to break a sweat in the morning air. 
  2. Work was fun: I got to work on two interesting projects and am proud of the results. 
  3. I finally re-filled my Oxycodone prescription, so now I can blissfully not be in pain all the time. While I am getting my energy back, I am concerned because hobbling to take the dogs to the tree outside our building seems to correlate with increased pain.
  4. My small faith group was hosted this week at my house, which I like, because I am lazy and don’t like going out. Particularly on Mondays.
  5. Except for pooping all over the place when the guests first arrived, the dogs were fairly well mannered. The pups calmed down quickly enough, particularly when bribed with lots of pets.
  6. This week’s reading had to do with the metaphor of David: after slaying the ominous Goliath as a fearless shepherd boy, he goes on to gain fame and fortune and rises through the ranks of the court until he is best friends with the prince and marries the princess. Then the king gets jealous and David has to run for his life. For about 10 or more years, he is on the run in the desert and hiding in caves. For over 10 YEARS life sucks pretty bad. But during that time, David learns things about resilience, leadership and faith that later help him be one of the most famous kings of Israel.  The sucky times were a training ground. So I guess the lesson to learn from that is that when life sucks, God is present. Its not some sort of cruel punishment, instead rather an emotional and spiritual workout. I’ve been in workouts where everything in your body wants to stop, but you know you can push through, because thats what athletes do. Even when you are having a bad workout, you figure out how to adjust and make the most of it. So even now, when my body is broken and emotions are all over the place, I can be encouraged by the fact the my emotional muscles are getting torn down in order to be regenerated stronger and fitter.
  7. In unrelated news, evidently the Prince of England was born today.

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