Today our dog Marley turns 7 month old it will also be a month since he joined our family. And it really feels like he belongs here, with us. Marley is a rescue dog, found as a 3 month old puppy in Bacau, Romania. Sheltered in a dog rescue shelter, brought by the foundation @hulpdoetleven to The Netherlands. Marley is super cute, super smart and super family friendly. It took our two cats only a few days to accept him, and they are getting closer every day. Yeay!
About 6 years ago we said goodbye to our old dog Emma. We raised her as a puppy, she was like our first child, and when we had to put her to sleep when she was 12 our heart broke. We decided not to get another dog. Not only because the emotional attachment to our old dog, but also for the practical reasons which seem very logical: too busy with work, school, it’s time consuming, we don’t need to go outside anymore when it rains, etc. But our daughter who grew up with a dog, kept talking about getting one again. She was often bringing the subject up, trying to persuade us, begging and charming us. It took us about 2-3 years of every now and then discussions until we decided to get another dog. And now that we have had Marley for a month, I can only say that there are just so many benefits of having a dog, and only a few impediments… that really do not count. Allow me to sum up a few of the best things about having a dog.
- Fresh air. You go outside much more often and get fresh air; this was the argument our 13-year-old daughter kept using. And she was telling is that she and us would benefit from it and she was of course right. You have to walk the dog at least 3 times a day, as a puppy even more often. Of course you can just walk around the block, but many times you look for parks, forests, lakes or sea sides, and the quality of air is much better there. Your whole body gets better oxygenated, especially your brain, which makes you focus better on your work, be more creative and also cope better with stressful situations.
- Physical well-being. Because you have to walk the dog a few times a day, you simply get more physical exercise. We all live in a much to sedentary world, where sitting all day long (behind a desk working on our laptop or on a sofa watching our favourite series) does lots of damage to our bodies. Before we had Marley I struggled many days with reaching my goals of 10.000 steps a day. Now I know I walk enough every day, so no need to wear my activity tracker anymore. The most natural way of moving our body for us humans is walking. Of course any type of sports is healthy, biking, swimming, tennis, but walking is essential for our joints, posture, intestinal activity, spine or muscle tension. Having a dog makes you go out, walk, move, engage in physical activity, breathe fresh air (see no 1) and all of this makes you really feel your overall physical well-being improving. Just one month of having a dog, eating sweets for Saint Nicholas, about 4 Christmas diners and a New Year’s Eve one, and not to forget all the extra alcohol intake, and yet I feel lighter and more fit than a month ago.
- Social interaction. I have discovered more about my neighbourhood in this past month than in the 4,5 years I live here just by walking the dog. We are fortunate enough to live opposite a park, where many dog owners from around us walk their dogs. And yes, most of them I know now by the name of their dogs, but still, I get to chat on almost a daily basis with many new people. Of course about our dogs and how funny, sweet or naughty they are, but also about so many other things. And not only in our park, but in many other places I go walk Marley. For me, working a lot from home, this gives an extra social dimension to my daily encounters. And I love it.
- Mood up. Spending even only 10 minutes with my dog and I already feel much better. There is something in the way a dog wiggles his tale, jumps around, cuddles, runs to play with other dogs, enjoys mud, lies on his back to get more cuddles, looks like he is smiling all the time, and many more of these kind of behaviour, that just increases my mood almost instantly. Research has shown that playing with your dog increases the levels of dopamine and serotonin in your brain, which are directly linked with your perception of pleasure and happiness. I am pretty sure this was a very thorough research. Dogs are also about your mental well-being.
- Teaches children and teens responsibility. While our daughter wanted a dog very much, and found all sorts of arguments in favour of getting a dog, we did talk also about the responsibilities that go with it. Because a dog needs walking and food and care and cleaning after sometimes. Of course talk is just talk, so we were very interested to see how she will take upon her deal of responsibilities towards the dog. But she did. She walks Marley every day after school, and sometimes she needs to take the early morning shift. And she often joins one of us too when we go outside. She not only feeds the cats, but also the dog now. And when the dog was still having little accidents in the house, she cleaned up after him. I am very proud of her and I hope she will stick to this level of commitment to her pets.
- Routine. A dog needs routine, or otherwise his bladder won’t be properly trained and we will be less happy too. And guess what, we humans also thrive when we have a better daily routine. Having to get up at a certain time in the morning and walk Marley, makes my head clear after taking in fresh air, and having already move my body makes me more ready to start with my plans for the day. I am not very good at following my daily routine by myself, so having a dog really helps me a lot.
- No more bore. Actually, I don’t get bored easily, I always have things to do, plans to follow, dreams to create, and often not enough hours in a day. But I also like to take my time and wind down. And working by myself can sometimes feel like too soloistic and in need of someone to share my ideas or worries with. Well, Marley is a great asset. I can practice with him talks and trainings and he never finds any of my ideas silly.
So here we are, just a few days in the new year, after many celebrations. The clean sheet of 2018. Although every new day is a new beginning, a new year has something magical. Fresh and full of possibilities. I am not (anymore) a new year resolution type. And I hope you don’t set too high goals to achieve yourself. It’s always tricky, you know. But if you are looking for more social contacts, more exercise, more fresh air, more fun and simply…to experience more moments of joy in your every day life, I wholeheartedly suggest to get a dog!