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Man’s best friends

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Dogs play a vital role in our community but sadly they often get bad press. This month we explore the positive side of dog ownership.

According to one study, dog owners have less anxiety, depression and lower blood pressure. Owners over 65 have fitness levels of someone ten years younger1, and dog ownership alleviates loneliness and provides companionship. Pets as Therapy (PAT), a charity founded in 1983, provides therapeutic visits to hospitals, hospices, nursing and care homes, special needs schools and other venues. Currently there are over 5000 active PAT dogs and cats in the UK doing valuable work with their volunteer owners.

Dogs can support those living with autism. Autism suffers can be overwhelmed by scent, sound and movement and Mariëlle Wraff describes how her assistance dog Turbo, helps her:

“Turbo is aware of tensions in my body when I’m scared or stressed and he helps me by warning me if tension is building up inside me. He looks up to me intensely and if I’m not reacting, he gives me nose pokes against my leg.  He “wakes me up” that way and makes me aware of my feelings.  Turbo then guards me and helps me to get out of situations (such as a shopping store) by searching for doors and exits when asked. He keeps me safe this way and because of this I can shop on my own now or when I feel very good, take a bus!”

Funded by The Kennel Club Charitable Trust, The Bark & Read Foundation improves children’s literacy skills. It supports several schemes that encourage children to read to dogs, helping reduce stress levels, self-consciousness and build confidence. Dogs can also teach children a sense of responsibility, provide f
iendship, be told secrets and make a family whole.

Lynn Stacey‘s Cocker Spaniel Bella is her lifeline. Trained by a volunteer from Dog AID (Assistance in Disability), Lynn explains,

“Bella performs tasks that help me live independently: opening/closing doors, fetching crutches, retrieving dropped items, pres
sing lights on, alerting me to my medication alarm, helping me undress, loading/unloading the washing machine, fetching the telephone, opening/closing curtains, making the bed … the list is e
dless! Bella is more than my Assistance Dog – she offers emotional support not just physical support, and I am proud to call her ‘my best friend’.”

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Jody Day is founder of Gateway Woman, an organisation that supports woman who are childless-by-circumstance – not choice.  She explains,

“A large number of members have pets, especially dogs. They get a great deal of benefit both in how this enables them to play a more active part in their local community and also for the rewards of both giving and receiving nurturing.”

Whether doing life-saving work, supporting children’s learning or simply providing much-needed friendship, dogs make a positive difference to many lives.


Resources & References

1 Study finds ‘life in the old dog’ for pet owners http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/10976567/Study-finds-life-in-the-old-dog-for-pet-owners.html

PAT Dogs https://www.petsastherapy.org

The Kennel Club Bark & Read Scheme http://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/barkandread

Dog AID assistance dogs http://www.dogaid.org.uk/

Gateway Women http://gateway-women.com

This article, along with a selection of others about behaviour and training, is available in our Dog Blog booklet.  This can be purchased for £2 and is available as a paper copy or downloadable e-book.  All proceeds to Irish Retriever Rescue.

If you would like to sell any copies of the Dog Blog for your rescue organisation, please contact kate@contemplatingcanines.com.