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Stress Management: Get a Dog!

Bella the poodle
(Image by TSL)

If you don’t own a dog, at least one, there is not necessarily anything wrong with you, but there may be something wrong with your life. (Roger A. Caras)

Bella, the fluff-bucket is in doggie hospital as I write this. She woke up this morning very wobbly and unable to walk. A far cry from her usual morning licks and kisses. Frankly, it was a little scary. We don’t yet know how serious her problem is. 

I am not coping very well.

And, because I am not really thinking about much besides my lovely little Bella today, you get a post about what I’ve discovered since she came into my life…

Bella on the Spit to Manly walk
Bella on the Spit to Manly walk
(Image by TSL)

Bella was originally LM’s dog. He had her when we first met. I remember actually being disappointed that she was a Poodle. I thought a more ‘dog-like dog’, something like a Staffie’, would have been better than a fluff-bucket like her.

I no longer feel that way. Of course I love her because she is uniquely herself. But there are some added practical benefits to choosing a miniature poodle. She doesn’t shed. She doesn’t drool. She’s very neat and clean. She’s intelligent. And, she doesn’t scare wee kidliwinks at the park. And – despite the fluff – she is still very much a dog-like dog.

Petting, scratching, and cuddling a dog could be as soothing to the mind and heart as deep meditation and almost as good for the soul as prayer. (Dean Koontz, False Memory)

Bella in repose
Bella in repose
(Image by TSL)

Did you know that owning a dog comes with added health benefits?

Dogs are hugely affectionate. They love nothing more than a really good cuddle. Dr Alan Beck, director of the Center for the Human-Animal Bond at Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine and his co-researcher Aaron Katcher found in the early ’80s that when people interact with dogs, “[they] actually get a drop in blood pressure – a true relaxation response”. And, researchers in Japan found that when dog owners just met their dogs’ gaze, they experienced a spike in oxytocin – a neurotransmitter that helps us cope with stress.

Dogs are social. And fluffy miniature poodles attract kids. Guaranteed. When you’re walking with your dog, you meet people. They are conversation starters. A 2000 study found that someone walking with a dog had three times as many social interactions than when that same person walked alone. Pretty amazing, I reckon’.

And, since I’m currently on the Autoimmune Protocol, and stress management is a big part of the programme, let me also say that owning a dog is GREAT for helping to manage stress. According to Alan Beck, “[playing with your dog] keeps you in the moment. So when you’re talking and playing with your dog, your mind is not free to worry. We intuitively try and do this anyway – we listen to music, we sit in a coffee shop, we watch TV – just to keep our minds focused on what’s going on right now. But if that focus is nature or an animal, it’s that much easier.”

Dogs force you to take time out of your day. And, they love to play. Bella’s favourite activity is when LM and I take her to the park (together!) and she can play with her ball. There are days when I really don’t want to do this, but I just know how disappointed she will be if we don’t go. And, I always feel better for having done it. There’s something about being outside playing with a dog that makes your problems seem less significant.

And, dogs don’t care how silly you are. As with small children, playing with dogs allows you to remove some of your inhibitions.

Of course, it’s a no brainer that owning a dog also forces you to exercise every day. Dogs will never willingly turn down a walk. So, in addition to lowering stress levels, walking your dog can give you a stronger heart, lower blood sugar, more restful sleep, lower cholesterol and better memory.

For me, the very best thing about Bella is the unconditional love she gives me. At the markets on a Saturday morning (where stall-holders know her by name), when I return from picking up my veggie haul, she greets me as if she hasn’t seen me for a week. And, nothing beats the excitement of a dog greeting you at the door when you return home. And, that joy is infectious.

Bella on the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk
Bella on the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk
(Image by TSL)

I had never had a dog before Bella. I didn’t realise how life-changing a dog can be. Now, I can’t imagine life without her. Here’s hoping she’s on the mend very soon…

Update: Bella has returned home from doggie hospital. X-rays and bloods have been taken. She has been diagnosed with spondylosis (she has a bone spur on one of the vertebrae of her spine) and probably moved in an awkward way that cause her significant pain.

We’re supposed to keep her quiet and walk her on the lead for the next three weeks. She will not be happy! 

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Comments (20)

Bella certainly is just that! Beautiful. I hope she recovers swiftly from whatever is ailing her. ♥

Thanks Erin. She’s part of our wee family and the house is very empty without her here. (sniff)

If dog owners have three times more social interactions than non-dog owners, then Great Dane owners must have twenty times as many. Which is truly, wonderfully great. The only minor downside being the need to maintain a smile when, on average, ten people per walk say “Can you put a saddle on that?” And each is convinced that they are the first.

I’m very sorry to hear about Bella and wish her back and on form immediately. I can well imagine how worried you must be. And Remington (my Dane) wishes it too.

PP – Bella was born into a home of Poodles and Great Danes! She sends Remington a big doggie lick (she’s feeling much better today). 🙂

Not surprisingly, I agree with this entirely.

(Paws crossed that all goes well.)

Hi lovely Jan – it was a very scary start to the day, yesterday. While she is not exactly back to her old self yet, she is a lot better (phew!)

My whole family is allergic to fur except for me, so I have never been able to have a pet. I am very excited for the day I get an apartment so I can finally get a dog! Hope everything goes well!

NSSP – Are your family allergic to poodles as well? Poodles are hypoallergenic (and they don’t shed) and they are so very hard to resist…

Bella is on the mend (we think).

Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

Wishing Bella a speedy recovery. Kx

Thanks lovely K. She is MUCH better today… here’s hoping it was a one-off…

What a beautiful heart-felt post about the love of owning a dog! I can relate to so much of what you have written. I wonder how i even lived before little Charlie came into my life! Hope Bella recovers really quickly xx

Hi bella bella, Dudley says he hopes you get well soon and back to the park soon.

Hi Jannie! Lovely to see you here in blog-land!

She’s well on the mend, but hating the restrictions of on lead-only walks! Hugs to Dudley (and his parents, too!) Hope you are all settling in at your new home. X

Well, we know what a fabulous pup Charlie is, P4S!

Bella-bear is recovering well. 😉

Oh poor Bella! I’m glad she’s home but what happens to the bone spur? Will it go away? I know what you’re going through, Harley has epilepsy which is bought on by toxins in food, and anytime he gets a seizure we are complete wrecks.
I hope she continues to get better and that your both ok too. Much love xx

Melly – the bone spur is still there. She (fortunately) didn’t have any neuropathy as a result of the issue this week, and now at least, we know it’s there (not that Balla cares – she was pogo-pooch at the market this morning). The thing is, it may cause further issues down the track. If so, she may need surgery. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Thanks for your well wishes. Means a lot to know how so many understand how much love I have for a fluff-bucket like Bella. XX

I am a board member of NorCal Poodle Rescue in Northern California. NCPR is in the middle of a capital campaign to raise money for a new facility. We have outgrown ours. As I was searching the internet for inspiration, I ran across your blog and found it charming. Of course Bella is adorable. If you have any ideas regarding fund raising I would love to learn how it is done in Sydney. If you should be in the San Francisco Bay area in the end of September, check out Poodle Day in Carmel. I know Bella would love romping with all the other (over 500) poodles and poodle mixes. Certainly Bella’s accent would be a hit.

Hi Pam – thanks so much for stopping by! I would love nothing more than to be in the San Francisco Bay area for the Carmel Poodle Day. Imagine if Bella could be there, too…! How fabulous would THAT be…?

As for fund raising – we have ‘million paws’ walks here – opportunities for pups of all shapes and sizes (and their owners) to get together for walks to raise money. I know it’s a constant challenge. Good luck (from both of us!) 🙂

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