We’re getting a dog. Actually I think we’re getting a dog but the way things are going I’m starting to wonder whether child adoption would be easier. It started with my wife looking over a website for dogs needing homes. She spotted one, contacted the person in charge of things and we started planning. So far, we’ve spent an hour on the telephone being questioned and being given advice – that’s fine. At the weekend we will be visited and our home will be inspected. A dog, not the one we asked about, will accompany the person inspecting us. Is this for the dog to check us over? Assuming we pass, we may even get to see the dog we asked about! Then will be asked for a ‘donation’ of $230.00 and that’s before we’ve put our hands in our pockets for dog-related paraphernalia.
The reason for this preamble, okay ramble, is that my mind has been on man’s best friend for a few days. I started to think about the ways in which dogs provide various services beyond companionship and the list is really quite extensive. A very quick search reveals the more obvious benefits of dogs, not necessarily dog ownership, in relation to search and rescue activities, specialist sniffers, and so on. There are dogs for the blind and deaf, dogs to support people with learning difficulties, dogs for people with autism, for people with diabetes and much more besides.
Now the emotional relationship between dogs and people is well known so the fact that this extends into a therapeutic relationship isn’t so surprising. Research into the positive nature of dog ownership also extends into anxiety and mood disorders and my take is that anything that helps is worth a look, or two.
Someone I know suffers with anxiety and depression – she also has two dogs. This person lives alone and the dogs provide much needed companionship. The dogs also have needs which means she has to take them out for walks whether or not she chooses to. Twice a day this lady gets fresh air and exercise when she might otherwise hide away. There’s little doubt in her mind that caring for these animals provides her with a much needed focus and that her mood is so much better than it might otherwise be. It represents just one instance of an unsung therapeutic relationship and there must be countless others.
Lucy Ellsworth is a doctoral candidate at Washington State University. Lucy has been monitoring the effects dogs have on young people in residential settings being treated for ADHD, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. She was struck how bursts of hyperactivity in boys diminished, how sadness decreased and how positive emotions such as joviality, attentiveness and serenity increased. Lucy is also interested in the chemistry of companionship and hypothesizes a release of dopamine and opioid’s in the brains of the boys as they anticipate the arrival of the dogs. It’s an interesting and useful line of enquiry. I hope we get to learn more of the effects if and when the study is extended.
I thought my days of being assessed were long gone so it just goes to show. So now I wait.
Published On: June 20, 2013