Dogs. A word which evokes a Marmite reaction from people – it’s rare that you will come across someone who just ‘thinks they’re ok’, or who could take them or leave them. More often than not, people will respond to say that they love them, or are terrified of/hate/are annoyed by them. I well and truly fall into the former camp and was delighted to follow the 3,730 tweets for #NationalDogDay earlier this week and all their associated pictures!
I’m currently writing this blog en route home from a long few days in Philadelphia, with jet lag, following a delayed 7-hour flight… I’m feeling all the normal things you would expect with this kind of exhausting schedule, but above all else I’m excited, because waiting for me at home are nine beautiful English Springer Spaniels – eight of which are 9-week-old puppies, the ninth being their mother, Bessie Bear (or Bess, if you’re generally anyone other than me). I promise if you keep reading (or just scrolling) there will be more adorable pictures and a little overview of my life with eleven puppies…
But first – a little about the science… We work in the healthcare industry; where medicine, Pharma, pills and potions dominate. These are all crucial for maintenance of our health and well-being – you would be hard-pressed to find someone who has never taken a medicine of some kind or another – but I would like to look beyond the pharmacological interventions and talk a bit about the psychological and physical benefits animals can bring to a person’s life (if you’re into them!).
I am personally always happier when around dogs, but don’t just take my highly subjective word for it – research can back me up. Studies are ongoing in many areas of medicine to quantify, objectively, the impact animals have on our physical and mental well-being, ranging from conditions such as dementia1 and depression2, through to the role they can play in rehabilitation following chronic conditions3 and in keeping older people active4. They can provide much-needed companionship following the loss of a loved one, and give a great excuse to become fitter or lose weight – there are few more motivating influences than the big, sad eyes of a spaniel looking up at the lead… (but unless you want to be tripped over, I suggest you train said dog to run off the lead, a long way away from you. Trust me on that). A recent article from Scientific American looked at the hormonal releases in the brain from interactions with dogs, ‘increases in β-endorphin (beta-endorphin), oxytocin and dopamine – neurochemicals associated with positive feelings and bonding – have been observed in both dogs and people after enjoyable interactions like petting, play and talking’.
So enough about the science – I think you get it. So why doesn’t everyone just rush out and get a pet?! The challenge, of course, is that living in London, or indeed rented/small/garden-less accommodation anywhere, can squash this; landlord restrictions, increasingly busy lifestyles, long working hours etc. etc. often stand in the way of owning our own animals. But with the advent of novel business ventures such as Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium (I’ve been it’s well worth a visit, there is a cat that you can walk on a harness, at his own request – that’s my friend, right, walking said cat), animals can be accessible to anyone, and I greatly advocate spending some time with them. There is nothing like the unconditional love that a dog, cat, guinea pig… can provide.
I love all animals, but this brings me back to my passion – dogs. A wise person once said ‘anyone that says diamonds are a girl’s best friend, never had a dog’ – not that I would turn down a diamond if offered, of course! I’m lucky enough that I live in the middle of the countryside, in a house with a garden, with a farmer for a husband – perfect conditions for raising little bundles of puppy joy. However, with introducing puppies into the world comes the inevitable heartbreak of seeing them go to new homes, and since last Thursday I’ve seen three of ‘my’ babies head off to their loving new owners (I know they are loving, because I’ve vetted and interviewed them all at length!), and the rest will follow them soon. That doesn’t mean to say that I’ve not become incredibly attached to each and every one of them, with their very individual characters and foibles (if you’re interested, my names for the original 11 of them are Tiggy, Stripey, Dipstick, Badger, Brian, Enid, Missy, Pippin, Tucker Trousers, Grace and Bobby). Unfortunately for my husband, this attachment means that we have to keep two of them (so far) – so Tiggy and Tucker Trousers (he looks like he is wearing a little pair of trousers, in case you were wondering) are going to be joining our family. And if you see me trying to sneak a little squeaky ball of fur into the building, it is as a result of the ongoing campaign from Louise Earley for the rest of the office to share my new pets! (Don’t tell security!).
Victoria Stanley, Group Account Director – PLBR Med Ed/PR
- Nordgren L, Engström G. Nurs Older People 2014;26(3):31–8
- Enmarker I, Hellzén O, Ekker K, Berg AG. Aging Ment Health 2015;19(4):347–52
- Vallet C, André N, Gentet JC, et al. Ecancermedicalscience 2015;28;9:558
- Raina P, Waltner-Toews D, Bonnett B, et al. J Am Geriatr Soc 1999;47(3):323–9