In the time of coronavirus lockdown, many people have learned to understand the joys and benefits of sharing their lives with a dog.
The RSPCA recorded 1600 adoption applications in one week in Victoria, and petrescue.com.au doubling its adoption rates — with 12,534 adoptions between across March and April.
The bond between a dog and a human is powerful. It has been shown that when you stroke a dog or make eye contact with them, it causes oxytocin to flow in their bodies and ours, causing positive emotional states such as feeling calm and loved.
There are health benefits. Dog owners have a lower risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Having contact with our pets also seems to assist in managing stress levels. And they can even help tell when we’re sick: a dog sniff test is more reliable than a doctors test for testicular cancer.
Australian author and journalist Kate Leaver knows all about the joys and benefits of dog ownership. In her latest book Good Dog, she writes about her dog Bertie and how he gave her an “excuse to write thousands of words about her favourite animal”.
Leaver talks about her special bond with Bertie and how he had helped her manage her mental health.
“I’ve lived with depression since I was a teenager and I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when i was 17, it’s something I manage from day to day,” she tells Hatch.
“I was at home in bed, unable to work, and Bertie would refuse to leave my side, I truly believe he knew what was going on and wanted to care for me.”
Leaver has not trained Bertie to comfort her in times of stress.
“He just instinctively stays with me when I am distressed.”
Leaver’s book is an inspiration, including stories of different people in different circumstances all tied together by one common theme — the bond between humans and their dogs.
We meet Pepper, a “task trained” assistance dog for her owner Abby (below).
Pepper is trained to help Abby with things she struggles with due to her disabilities. Her tasks include emptying the washing basket, helping her get undressed and fetching emergency medication.
Abby is autistic and her dog is able to apply pressure therapy and tactile stimulation to help her when she becomes overloaded.
“Having a dog has also helped me establish healthy sleep, reduced my anxiety and assisted in me maintaining relationships with other people,” she says.
“I believe dogs do have a sense of knowing when something is wrong both emotionally and practically. They have an incredible way of knowing when you are in pain … Pepper will come and lie on me when I am in pain without having being trained to do that.”
As a dog owner myself, I completely understand the bond. As I have learned with my beautiful dog Shelly, they bring such a light to your life.