I was blessed. When I went searching for a dog for my then-six-year-old daughter and myself, a friend referred me to a local rescue organization that specialized in golden retrievers. I knew a golden would be a good fit for us — I’d helped my grandmother rescue a golden when I was a kid and been around enough of them to know that temperament-wise, one would be a good fit for us.
I checked the rescue organization’s website and happened upon a likely candidate — he looked a bit scruffy and, per the description, had been surrendered by a breeder due to being “too small and too ugly to breed.” I’m not sure I buy that he was really ever characterized as such — true, he was on the smaller side for a golden (65-70 pounds), but “ugly” and Pringle never resided in the same zip code.
Suffice it to say, he was perfect for my daughter and me. For over 11 years, Pringle played the role of Best Dog Ever. I’ve shared his story here previously. Though he’s been gone close to three years, he’s always with me. I’ve had multiple pets in my life and loved them all, but Pringle? He was extra special.
One of the things — the nice things — about social media is that it allows us to keep up with our friends and acquaintances. Setting aside the political squawking, it’s a lovely way to keep up with the accomplishments and milestones. Sadly, it also keeps us apprised of the losses. And I’ve been on Facebook, in particular, long enough now that an entire generation of pets have graced the pages of my friends and traversed the Rainbow Bridge.
Each time it happens, the friend shares photos and sweet stories of how their beloved four-legged friend enriched their lives. Always, my heart goes out to them because I know — as well as anyone can — the heartache that comes from saying goodbye to a beloved and faithful friend.
Pets aren’t complicated. They may demand our attention and need our care, but in the end, all they really need is our love. They don’t cling to unrealistic expectations. They don’t play mind games. They don’t generally have baggage for us to carry. Mostly, they just need some noms and scritches. And in return, they give us tail wags, and purs, and snuggles.
More than that, even, they’re good for us. They help us heal — both physically and mentally. Not only do they reduce stress…
Research has shown that simply petting a dog lowers the stress hormone cortisol , while the social interaction between people and their dogs actually increases levels of the feel-good hormone oxytocin (the same hormone that bonds mothers to babies).
In fact, an astonishing 84 percent of post-traumatic stress disorder patients paired with a service dog reported a significant reduction in symptoms, and 40 percent were able to decrease their medications, reported a recent survey.
…they also can lower our blood pressure:
The cortisol-lowering and oxytocin-boosting benefits of petting also help keep your blood pressure at bay. “Petting and holding an animal allows you to appreciate the beauty of nature,” explains Barron. “It’s relaxing and transcendental.”
What could be more soothing than petting the soft fur of a sleepy pup and hearing their contented sigh?
Like guardian angel Clarence wrote to George Bailey in his beloved copy of “Tom Sawyer,” no man is a failure who has friends. And no man (or woman or girl or boy) who’s been blessed with the friendship of a beloved pet will ever be quite the same. In fact, I do believe they’re angels — in furred, four-legged form — emissaries from Heaven, sent to assure us we’re not alone…and we are loved.