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Friday, April 8, 2016

Our Amazing Dogs

The more I learn about dogs, the more they amaze me.

Just think about it. Dogs provide unconditional, unending love and companionship. They ask for so little: good food, clean water, a safe place to live and of course, love. That's a pretty small price to pay for all they give us. Unlike humans, dogs are quick to forgive and don't carry grudges. They are happy to see us, whether we have been gone for a few minutes or for several months.

Dogs soothe the minds and provide comfort to those with PTSD. They are the ears of the hearing-impaired and the eyes of the blind. They can detect an approaching seizure and tell when a person's blood sugar is getting too low. They provide emotional support. They can detect explosives, and find smuggled narcotics, weapons, money and humans. They can track and find escaped criminals, runaway kids and wandering senior citizens. Dogs can locate human remains, even those centuries old.

Some dogs can detect cancer cells in a human body long before the human knows anything is wrong. Dogs protect soldiers in combat areas, they parachute into dangerous situations, they stand guard over their soldiers and they provide companionship to those serving far from home. Service dogs help those with physical challenges, by pulling wheelchairs, picking up dropped items and turning on light switches. They can help a person with balance problems keep from falling. Dogs can detect the use of an accelerant in an arson fire. Some therapists use dogs as a way to calm and relax their patients. Some universities now have dogs visit during final exams, as their presence can help the students relax during this stressful time. Even dogs with no special training can have an uncanny ability to seek out those who need some extra support.

All these things aside, just think about what our dogs do for us as individuals. My dogs have never been trained to detect seizures, or to find explosives or to provide security and guard services. But they nonetheless have done a lot of things for me. Study after study has shown that petting a dog can lower blood pressure and reduce stress. A dog's goofy antics can make us laugh, another great way to relieve stress. One of my dogs gets very wound up about 10 o'clock every night, so now we enjoy a few minutes of playtime and chasing each other around the house before we go to bed. Dogs are wonderful listeners, and we never have to worry about them betraying our trust. They won't gossip about us, and they won't tell our secrets to anyone. Our dogs give us a reason to get up in the morning, and to go for a walk. My dogs demand a walk first thing in the morning after breakfast and a potty break.

Have you ever watched dogs run when they have the freedom to really race and stretch their legs? They are so exuberant and they get such joy out of the simple act of running. Watching dogs compete in agility and fly ball is an exhilarating experience. They don't care whether they win or lose; they just like to run. And how about watching border collies do what they are bred to do -- herd sheep? They are amazing to watch.

After years of living with larger dogs, I now have two small dogs and a medium-size dog. Despite their small stature and long, flowing coats, 'the girls' are quite the explorers. Bailey, the smaller of the sisters, loves to go 'off roading.' She will go after rabbits, birds and anything else that is small and moving. Her 15-pound body is fearless.She is always the first to sound the alarm when the door bell rings or the wind blows too hard.

Layla, left, with sister Bailey.


I think the world would be a much better place if we lived more like dogs -- don't worry about the future, love the ones you're with, enjoy each day, eat with gusto, and run whenever you get the chance.