This week’s blog is from Lise Deguire, PhD—a psychologist, fellow dog-lover, and a writer whom I’m blessed to know.
I highly recommend her beautifully-written and inspiring new book, Flashback Girl: Lessons on Resilience From a Burn Survivor. Resilience is that trait that helps us through the rough times life hands us. Now—in the midst of a pandemic—that capacity is especially important.
Thanks, Lise, for sharing with us how Frankie has upped the happiness factor in your life.
Interested in being a guest-blogger? Contact me.
Happiness Is My Dog
My dog Frankie presses his furry back against my thigh. He wedged himself beside me deliberately, turning and turning in circles. His nose twitched as he found the perfect spot for his fifth nap of the day. I delight in his stillness. I will not move for as long as possible, prolonging our contact. I pet him gently, waving my fingers through his silky white fur.
Four years ago, I became a dog person. Prior to Frankie, I would peer anxiously at dogs, stiff and wary. I was bitten by a chihuahua when I was seven years old. Dogs made me nervous, everyone knew this. So, when I announced we were adopting a puppy, my friends were incredulous.
“Are you sure?”
“It’s a lot of work.”
“You need to get a crate. You need to have a dog walker. You need to train him.”
Like many modern relationships, I impetuously fell in love online. A woman I knew began fostering puppies, and she posted a photo of Frankie. He was three months old, only ten pounds of white fluff, with dark brown eyes and a matching button nose. His photo stopped me in my tracks. My friend offered to bring him to the house to see if we liked him. The day she came with Frankie, I sat on the living room floor. Frankie ran through the doorway and leapt into my arms. That was it for me.
I cannot convey the comfort I get from this dog. I press my nose against his side, because I like to sniff him. He smells like earth and grass, which makes sense because he is only 12 inches high, so he walks low to the ground, white fur drooping even closer to the dirt. I love his sounds: his groans when he stretches, his high-pitched yips when he dreams, the neighing sound he makes when he restrains from barking. I don’t love his barking. But sometimes I do. He greets me at the end of the day with an impassioned, “Woo woo woo woo wo-oo!” It is always five woos, as he circles me, enraptured. “Woo woo woo woo wo-oo,” I howl in response.
I love the feel of Frankie’s soft fur against my palm. I run my hands down his jawline, while he looks at me with his round brown eyes. As we do this, I feel my heart rate slow, and the muscles relax in my stomach. Frankie is my best medicine for stress, loneliness and sadness.
Because of Frankie, I know my neighbors better. I used to know the families right around me, but I rarely saw them. Now I see them all the time, and I even know families around the block. “Hi Frankie!” they call out as we stroll by. My dog struts like a little ambassador; eager to greet everyone he sees, his little ears standing up, tail wagging. When we encounter someone who doesn’t wish to say hello, Frankie plods away, ears and tail drooping with disappointment.
An article came out recently on the happiness levels of pet owners. Thirty-six percent of dog owners considered themselves to be “very happy” and decidedly happier than cat owners (only eighteen percent). Sixty-three percent of dog owners sought comfort from their dog, and ninety-three percent considered their dog to be a member of their family. (You can read the article here). Another piece came out, about a man whose dog supports his sobriety . As a psychologist, these articles caught my eye.
Now that I have Frankie, I have begun recommending that my lonely patients consider getting a dog. Having a dog won’t improve your marriage or make your children behave. The dog will be a financial burden, and a logistical headache every time you go out longer than a few hours. But dogs do get you out and about, a particular blessing during these COVID times. You will meet people, stay more active, and always have a creature overjoyed to see you. Your dog will never consider you disappointing, irritating, or chubby. His love is as steady as your heartbeat.
In other blog posts, I have given professional advice and pearls of wisdom. I have written sensitive pieces about bullying, saying the wrong thing, and grower older. I try to offer thoughtful encouragement and interesting clinical ideas. My goal is to write a blog full of unique perspectives on resilience and what helps us get through life.
To be clear, this is not one of those blogs. Today’s message is simple; maybe you should get a dog! My dog transforms my lonely days into playful romps, my anxiety into serenity, my sadness into contentment. He performs these medical miracles every day, just being his furry self. I am indeed a much happier person now that Frankie is in our family. Maybe you should consider getting a dog too. Loving a dog is much less complicated than loving a person. And there is nothing so sweet and pure as being loved by a dog.
Dr. Lise Deguire is a clinical psychologist, blogger, dog lover, and author of Flashback Girl: Lessons on Resilience From a Burn Survivor. Learn more on her website (with links to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn).