Ok I’ll level with you here, I am beginning to find this period of lockdown testing and it hasn’t yet been a week. In my honest opinion, I think it is being made harder that I am dog-less, and even more recently cat-less after we lost little Olive suddenly only recently. Feeling the strain, I felt inspired to write this piece.
Instagram and social media in general has surprisingly been a hub of positivity, encouragement and support since this pandemic plagued us all, with my new found source of entertainment being TikTok. If you haven’t yet downloaded it, I urge you to and see how long you can keep a straight face for.
But, let’s get real, this is just a distraction. For those of you with children, I can only imagine they are keeping you busy for the most part and living with a partner will likely keep you distracted for the remainder, but there will be times when you need an escape (other than your one form of exercise a day, which if you’re a parent will likely involve the children) – and that ladies and gentlemen, is where dogs save the day.
I am really starting to miss having the silent but sure-fire emotional support and physical companionship of dog during this lockdown. In all probability, I will likely go a little bonkers without Bella unknowingly keeping me grounded. Yes, I am lucky enough to be able to escape to the yard at either end of the day to spend a couple of precious hours caring for and exercising Simba – my horse, but that isn’t the same as a cuddle on the sofa or a snuggle in bed (controversial but we’re rolling with it!).
You don’t get the same emotional encouragement from a horse, or any other pet for that matter, than you do from a dog. They are almost ALWAYS delighted to see you, with unwavering happiness as that tail wags and the smile sweeps across their faces as you barely do so much as look their way.
Are your dogs keeping you sane? I mean, is there anything better than owning a dog – those of you who don’t like dogs, I suggest you click off now as this article is all for dogs, sorry not sorry – what’s that quote? Oh yes;
‘A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.’ – Josh Billings.
In these unprecedented, never-seen before times, they are certainly proving it. I mean, let’s be honest, for the most of us, we go out to work during the day and the dogs stay at home. They get the rule of the roost whilst we’re off doing ‘human-things’ and then we return at the end of the day after a long days work, the children are home from school and the once peaceful roost is now a hub of activity and the dog now becomes the centre of attention as selfishly, we all want our cuddle.
Now though, in this upside down scenario, the dog gets no peace. He is having to share his usually peaceful and un-interrupted day with us, and now, we seek the interaction more than ever. Poor dogs you might say, but, they don’t mind. They’re selfless and likely over-joyed (in most cases) to all of a sudden be sharing their alone time with us.
I read a piece by The Telegraph online this week which explored how Britons took to pet shops and animal shelters like they were grocery stores to stock up on animals in order to keep them company during this coronavirus crisis. Battersea Dogs and Cats Home reportedly re-homed more than double their usual amount of animals last week…
It does make me question the motives of people, and ultimately of the home. Will those pets be abandoned once again once things return back to normal and those people no longer need a source of companionship? I hope not.
But why do we crave the companionship of dogs so much, especially during this time? For years we owned a feisty little miniature Dachshund named Lola, who was queen of the house. She reigned over our cats at the time, despite being half their size. Anyway, she was an unwaveringly loyal and faithful friend throughout her life with us, and each night she’d snuggle up in my bed as we drifted off to sleep. Moments which I never really quite grasped the value of until recently. God, I miss her sassiness, her photograph sits beside by bed – but as you can imagine, it doesn’t come close.
Aside from the companionship they provide us with, I wonder if there is more to why we crave the company of dogs, perhaps it is partly to do with the fact that subconsciously, our minds and bodies know that the interaction is good for more than just our mental wellbeing.
It is suggested that owning a dog improves your cardiovascular health. Studies have indicated that owning a dog is linked to lower blood pressure and reduced cholesterol. Many of you who head out into the field with your canine companions each season will undoubtedly agree with this one; owning a dog keeps you fit.
A responsible dog owner will walk their dog regularly – ideally daily, and this is even more important to do during this period of lockdown to ensure your dogs can get outdoors for exercise and mental stimulation – just like you. Many of us living rurally will have the benefit of ample fields, woodland and other natural wonders where we can safely exercise our dogs, adhering to social distancing guidelines. Gun dogs and working dogs will most likely be being trained regularly in preparation for the season ahead, and with all this spare time on our hands, now has never been a better time to fine tune your dog’s obedience; whether your dog works or is a family pet.
Your dog can act as your stress relief. This isn’t just limited to dogs, spending even just five minutes with a pet can help to lower levels of anxiety and blood pressure which can mount up when we feel stressed. In today’s world, many of us stress over work, money, relationships, family, health… the list is almost endless.
The children are driving you mad, they just won’t sleep. Cooper is waiting for you with a wagging tail and loving look in his eye. The cows got out on the farm today or how about you just can’t get the hang of Zoom now that you’re working from home for the foreseeable, your faithful dog is likely sat at your feet, poised, waiting for you to tell them all about it. It is as if the stress evaporates when you’re in their company.
Even though your pet is a predominantly a silent being, their presence in a room and in your life speaks volumes. Being around pets increases levels of two neuro-chemicals; serotonin and dopamine, which are vital for feeling calm and content.
And perhaps most significantly during these times, owning a dog can help to keep loneliness at bay and help to fight off depression. Similarly to what I said above, there is so much going on in modern day life that creates a whirlwind of thoughts, emotion and often negativity that we struggle to switch off. Even in a full house, you can find yourself feeling lonely, now more than ever. Our dogs provide us with comfort, love and are in many cases a distraction from worry. On those days when you really don’t feel like getting out of bed and facing the world, your dog needs you.
For those farmers who are still heading out to work each day, lockdown hasn’t bought about too much change for them. They are used to working an isolated job. Many farmers will have a dog or two (or three), some to work livestock and some just for company. For those who spend many hours in tractors, a dog can go a long way in keeping them company whilst they work the fields. Having a co-pilot can make all the difference.
Whatever life looks like for you, even though dogs may not reply to you as you ramble on telling them about what happened yesterday, or who’s got on your nerves this week, they’re listening and that is the most important thing. They won’t ever judge you, only comfort and humour you when you need it.
Our dogs are part of our lives, and only for a short time in comparison to how long many of us live ours, but during that time, we are everything to them. Be kind, caring, empathetic, forgiving and responsible – always. But especially now and in the coming weeks and months as our ‘normal’ becomes something entirely new. I’d say, they need us far more than we need them, but I feel that currently, for many, it is the other way around – we need them more.
*Images within this article are either our own, sourced via Shutterstock or Unsplash.