Having a Dog Makes You Happy

I haven’t always been happy with my life. And I’ve always put my hopes in one thing or another to make myself happier, usually to no avail. For instance, I’ve always thought that changing my surroundings would help. When I was in high school, I thought, going to college will make me happier. I’ll have a new start. No one will know me, and I can begin a brand new happy life. This sort of thinking was pervasive, and it never worked. I wasn’t any happier when I went to college. I wasn’t any happier when I went to grad school. I wasn’t any happier when I got married. I was still me. Changing external forces doesn’t solve internal problems.

But the one exception to this rule was getting a dog. Even though getting a dog is an external force, it most definitely did make me happier. The question is, why?

    Most depressive feelings are self-indulgent and self-centered. What’s wrong with me? Why don’t others like me? Am I fat? Am I stupid? Me, me, me, I, I, I. When you have a dog, you have to take care of it. The focus is on another being. There are two effects. One is that you don’t obsess over you own failings. Or at least, you can’t spend as much time obsessing, because you are forced to care for your dog. The second is the act of caring for another creature is satisfying. You feel important. This helpless creature depends on you for his livelihood. Even if you don’t matter to anyone else in the world, at least you are the most important person in the world to your dog.

    Having a dog makes you less uptight. You let go of the small stuff. It’s no big deal that the dog chewed up your glasses case (like Loki did this weekend). It’s still useable, sort of. And even if it weren’t usable, I could just buy a new one. The world isn’t going to come to an end. The little things don’t matter anymore.

    You live in the moment. Cesar Milan always touts this point. It’s true. Yun and I have many moments in our daily lives where we drop everything we are doing to look at Loki simply because he is SOOOOOO cute. For just a moment, I forget about all the stressors in my life. I forget about my “to do” list. I forget about past anxieties. For just a moment, I live in the present and enjoy Loki’s beautiful smile.

    Having a dog helps you get to know your neighbors. When you own a dog, you have to walk him. For me, walking Loki meant saying “Good morning” and “Hi, how ya doing?” more often. Soon enough, you the same faces over again, and you end up knowing your neighbors and service workers. While you might not be the best of friends with these people, a friendly smile always brightens up anyone’s day. And aside from that, it’s nice to have some sense of belonging in a community.

A dog isn’t a cure all. I’m not a psychiatrist and I’m not prescribing getting a dog as a miracle treatment. A dog is also hard work. Some days Loki’s behavior frustrates me. Some days caring for him adds yet another task on my endless “to do” list. But the net effect is definitely positive.


Jenn said...

Wow, what a nice and insightful post.

I often read your blog, since I crave Shiba stories to make me and my Shiba (Ichiro) feel more 'sane', but haven't commented before. This note really hit home.

Thank you for sharing!

Vi said...

Ichiro! I love that name! It's so much fun to say.

Glad you enjoyed my post.

Peter said...

Very thoughtful post. My own experience with our Shiba, Niko, has been the same.

Monkey said...

I too feel the same. I feel i brought a lot of happiness and joy to my Mom & Dad (though I dont think my dad likes getting up to walk me in the morning) But I try to bring them all the joy I can. Together we get to meet all our neighbors, and all the other dogs that live here. They all know my name, and I get to play with my friends every time I go for a walk.
I like to make friends everywhere I go.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I've had a long depression ranging from mild to severe, and during the worst hours, my little shiba made a world of difference. Just petting her makes me relax and having her there to rely on and rely on me just makes me feel so much better, and even though she's slowly bankrupting me, she definitely the best thing in my life. (And she knows it. :P)... but on the plus side she is much cheaper than a shrink (and cuter too!)

Bibby said...

We have 2 Inus called Lily and Bear. They make me smile and I enjoy coming home from work every day because I know they are there. They lift me up when I am down and I dont know what i would do without them.

blue said...

I was very very impressed by your post.
Being also a person to have a tendeny to get depressive feelings frequently, I know living with and taking care of animals giving us a great comfort.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

The Shiba said...

I completely understand what you have written.

I suffer from generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder. There is nothing more comforting than having a panic attack in a store, and hiding in my car, only to have a shiba sit or lie next to me, letting me pet him until I feel better and can continue on my day.

Cortez is my security blanket. He gets me out of bed in the morning when the world seems to scary a place to face, and he walks me to bed at night, sleeping close by to keep the noises of the night away. It is like he knows that I have difficulty dealing with the real world sometimes.

I have more than enough insecurities, but Cortez does not care. He is just there and in his thereness, he is my mental and physical comfort.

And while my world revolves around him, he revolves around mine. I could not imagine going through this stage of my life without him.

Jen said...

I agree. This post hit home! I'm happy to have shibas in my life!

Chow Chow said...

I agree with you totally!

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