Dogs Can Be Good For Your Health

Four and a half years ago my daughter and my husband imposed on me their strong desire to get a dog.  “Oh, hell no I said emphatically!”  I was absolutely in opposition to the idea of bringing another live being into our home because I had zero interest in adding additional responsibility to my life.  I was rock solid firm on my decision, not a possibility of anyone or anything budging me to change my mind about this outlandish request.  However, persistence truly is a virtue and the dynamic duo practiced it on me daily for six months.  Extensive research on dog breed personalities, weekend outings to local dog shows, scattering cute pictures of puppies at the dinner table and a few trips up to Anthem Labs –  in North Central Illinois softened me enough to eventually, slightly and kinda sort of consider bringing a furry and loving animal into our household.  Many promises were made if a dog could enter our domain, my husband would potty train the puppy, my daughter would walk it and I  could give our beloved a Greek name, any name I wanted!  Oh ok, that’s something.  If you can believe it, I viewed this as a privilege to name something that could potentially become part of our family. After time and plenty of bribery, my family wore me down and I accepted the notion of adopting a Greek animal if everyone clearly understood that I would have I would have nothing to do with it.  Yes, they understood, and all five members of the family (not including me) drove to the farm to select a new puppy; what they brought home is an animal that has changed, improved and enhanced my life.  Friends- Never say Never!


Athena, yes that is the name my daughter and I gave our 6 week old Norwegian, perfect, sweet black labrador, a pure breed, pure bundle of joy whom I fell in love with at first sight. Of course all bets were off when I laid eyes on Athena, our Greek Goddess of love, who I have been walking every day for the past four and a half years.  The only days we haven’t taken a stroll are the days I’ve been out-of-town.  Athena’s enthusiastic and adventurous attitude draws me to her in a way that I did not think possible.


The following is why I love my Athena so much:


Athena makes me happy.  Research shows that it only takes 15-30 minutes with your pet to feel more relaxed and calm.  Playing with your puppy/doggie also raises your brain’s levels of dopamine and serotonin, which are neurotransmitters that are associated with pleasure and tranquility.  Psychologists found that having a canine companion is equivalent to having a human companion, I  have firsthand experienced this.


Athena gets me outside every day in every kind of weather.  I love to walk and move, and having a companion outside makes the time go so fast. I love how adventurous my baby is, and actually dog owners have been found to have lower cholesterol and medical problems than those without pets.  This according to the British Journal of Health (2004).  When I am outside, I feel peaceful and energized and I realize that nature is a gift.  Not enough people spend time in the great outdoors.  Athena gets me to get out and breathe the fresh air that consistently lifts my spirit.  This is a mentally & physically healthy thing to experience.


Athena is kind and patient.  I’m telling you, I feel like there is a human heart in my (notice I call her my dog now) girl.  When Athena wants to go outside and check out the scenery, she never barks or acts up, she merely goes to the glass door and points her nose to the door until I let her out.  A simple glance at me, and if I’m busy, she waits quietly and lovingly, until I physically open the door for her to exit.  I adore that Athena is so composed and smart, wonderful dispositions to possess.


Athena is a great companion.  Wherever I am in the house, there too is Athena next to me.  She just sits or lays down at my feet and keeps me company.  Not a peep out of Athena, just a loving look that melts me every time.  When I am under the weather, Athena sits real close to me so she can comfort me, and she does.


Athena always takes away my stress.  Petting her and throwing the ball for her to fetch is calming and fun.  I particularly love watching Athena wag her tail when we are about to go outside.  She understands “Let’s go for a walk, and she is trilingual, understanding and responding to English, Greek and Polish commands.  I told you she is smart.


Athena makes me better!  While I did not want another responsibility, caring for Athena is a routine I cherish.  She has taught me to be more patient, she taught me to be quiet, to listen, to keep moving, to be outside, to love unconditionally and every day Athena confirms my belief that trust is earned.


I guess I should thank  Brian and Patricia for the wonderful idea to get a dog, one who keeps me mentally and physically healthy.  “Who saved Who?”


For those of you interested in purchasing or rescuing a pet, investigate dog breeds and discover which one is best suited for you and your lifestyle.  Also, you may enjoy learning more about the health benefits of owning a pet by visiting Cesar Millan’s website where  you will find a great deal of information on achieving balance and harmony with a dog.

Kiki is a master interviewer with 25 years broadcasting on Kansas City and Chicago radio. She was a prevalent force at WMAQ & WBBM radio where she was the first female airborne news/traffic reporter in the "Windy City". Kiki’s voiceover work has garnered her Omni awards for Evian water and Coca-Cola commercials. These days Kiki enjoys energizing audiences on stage during motivational speaking engagements, and through writing. Her highly regarded “Kefi-That Life Force” column, was published previously in The Greek Star. She’s currently working on her first non-fiction book. [ View all posts ]