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The Benefits of Owning a Dog Later in Life

The Benefits of Owning a Dog Later in Life

By Karen van Zyverden

When my beloved English Bulldog Ellie-Mae died after 10 years, I thought I would never get over it.

I pined for another Ellie-Mae to replace my lost companionship with another dog. After a short mourning period, I hastily got an 8 week old active lab mix puppy.

I was used to a relatively sedentary bulldog, so having an active puppy was a total shock to my comfortable lifestyle.

Now I had to deal with things like, ridiculously early morning potty training sessions and removing foreign objects from a squirming animal.

Ellie-Mae

This breed has a potential lifespan for up to 15 years which means I would be 69 by that time. While my peers would be relaxing in Florida or possibly other exotic places, I would be stuck in the cold with a dog named Mabel.

Just the thought of this increased my SAD depression two-fold as I thought about what ever happened to Freedom 55.

But as I considered my situation, I discovered that there are major advantages to having a dog as you age.

Research has shown that older people who have a dog compared with those that don’t get an average of 22 minutes a day more of exercise. Just walking a dog alone can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, some types of cancers and help control weight.

As well has the physical benefits, the social stimulation is enormous with having a canine.

As a result of owning a pet, you now have the opportunity to interact with a vet, a groomer, meet others with dogs at parks or simply striking up a conversation with someone admiring your dog.

Nurturing a pet can also give you a sense of purpose. Even the mundane chores of feeding and walking a dog can give meaning or value to one’s life.

And there are psychological benefits too.

In an article published by the Boston Globe, they shared the following research;

“South African researchers showed that when men and women stroked and spoke with their dogs, as well as doubling the people’s blood levels of oxytocin, the interaction boosted levels of beta endorphins — natural painkillers associated with “runners high” — and dopamine, known widely as the “reward” hormone. These neurochemicals, too, are essential to our sense of well-being. A later and larger study by University of Missouri scientists also documented that petting dogs caused a spike in people’s serotonin, the neurotransmitter that most antidepressants attempt to elevate.”

And what about going on a trip and having a dog?

Mabel

Of course both are possible. There are always, dog sitters, house sitters, willing family and friends or just a plain boarding facility to care for your dog for a period of time.

Having a dog is a long term commitment and I think you do need to seriously think about it before taking the leap.

But having a dog is not necessarily the ‘ball and chain’ that many of us imagine.

Like many other things in life, there may be some hassles in owning a dog. But the rewards are certainly strong enough to exceed the drawbacks.

So I think I can have my Mabel and my own life too.

Here is some more information on the benefits of owning a dog later in life in this PBS NewsHour segment;

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