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Family Illness And The Dog

Saturday, 10 October 2015 00:00  by Gena P.


Family illness has resulted in my family’s recent move from our home to that of my in-laws’ some 40 or so miles away. Not my dream move by any means, but it is family. What more can I say? We are looking for a place of our own, nearby.

Though it is my mother-in-law who is ill, my father-in-law suffers from deep depression. He has all of his life I have been told. I can see it in his face, his body, and day-to-day life. But I have seen his demeanor change to that of a child since we have been with them. Is it the company of his grown son or grandchildren? Perhaps, but his greatest joy has seemed to come from Brownie, my little shih tzu. He has become quite playful with Brownie. “Dad” throws a ball or taunts him with one of the toys. He talks to him, loves him, and naps with him.

He will take Brownie outside on walks. He even chases Brownie through the house-which by the way, Brownie loves. Even on one of his “bad” days, “Dad” always has a “Brownie” story to tell me. It has been so great watching my father-in-law interact with my dog this way. “Dad” has asked if he gets visitation with Brownie when we find a house of our own. It makes me smile to think an animal can bring this much joy to someone who suffers so quietly.

So what is it about our four-legged furry friends that help us to deal with life and its ups and downs? Studies have shown that the mere presence of a dog can be soothing. It has also been shown to improve mood and lower blood pressure just by touching or petting a dog. (All humans have a basic need to touch.) How is this possible? Dogs are simple and uncomplicated creatures. They don’t have any place to be, or things to do at a certain time.

Their love is unconditional. Dogs are kind of mind readers, I think. They seem to sense our mood and “tune in” to our voice tone, body language, and gestures even better than we do. Dogs provide a positive, nonverbal communication, comfort and companionship. They do not criticize and are very loyal.

Yes, having a dog is a big responsibility; however, the unconditional love they give can be great medicine to those who suffer with depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. Though ownership does not alleviate the need for medication, therapy, and treatment, you might find a companion with lots of love to give to help you through some tough times.

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