Four months after my daughter was born my boy Chase, a rambunctious Golden Retriever, was diagnosed with a rare aggressive form of spleen cancer that had metastasized to his liver. He was very spirited, loved taking hikes, eating, and fetching. So when I saw him glazed-eyed, unable to move, and refusing to eat, I knew something was terribly wrong. I immediately took him to the vet. After a series of tests and an exploratory surgery, the diagnosis was made. I wanted to hope that the end was not here, but after the removal and biopsy of his tumor, I was told that he would live only a few more months. When he recovered so well from surgery, I started to feel hopeful that he was the exception and would beat the odds, but his improvement did not last. After several months, I knew the day had come. Through tears and a heavy heart, I said my last goodbye. Chase was with me only seven short years, but he left an indelible mark on me. For weeks and months afterwards, it was physically painful for me to think or even talk about my loss.
I appreciated Chase’s deep bark and his underbite that made his canine incisors more prominent and intimidating. I lived in a rural area on a big piece of land, and I was thankful that he would alert me to sketchy characters passing by or wild animals that would approach the property. Woe to the wild turkey, chicken, or possum that would wander unwittingly into my backyard.
I would come home after 12-hour days at the hospital and be greeted with a wagging tail, an irresistible smile, and a frisbee dropped at my feet. Later Chase would set his 70 pound frame on my lap completely oblivious to his size. When I wasn’t feeling well, this same high energy dog would lie right beside me and be there to gently nudge or lick my hand to make sure I was ok. Studies have shown that man’s best friend does just that: they gently nudge you into better health. I am well aware of all the work, time, and money these insanely adorable companions can consume, but for me the benefits well outweigh the expenditures.
My daughter has been praying and begging the last 2 years for a puppy, any puppy. Finally we were at a point where we could help answer her prayers. About a month ago, we brought home an eight week old West Highland Terrier that my daughter named Chester. Weeks later she still says, “I can’t believe that he is actually our puppy. I just love him so much!”
So how has this little white ball of energy and sharp teeth nudged me into better health the Blue Zone way?
For starters being responsible for feeding and caring for a puppy gives more meaning to my day. Petting my puppy and seeing his silly antics makes me laugh and sheds my stress. I am walking him frequently in efforts to potty train him. Walking him in the neighborhood makes me feel more connected and in touch with my neighbors. People often approach me to ask what kind of dog he is, or want to pet him. Exercise, community connection, and social engagement are all Blue Zone habits that will help me live a healthier and happier life.
What about you? How has having a dog enriched your life?
Life In the Blue Zone