Back in 2009, I was in a pretty bad place.
My boyfriend at the time had up and left me. I was just starting a new job. And I had recently moved into a 400-square-foot studio in Hawaii Kai that felt like it was on the other side of the planet.
So what did I do?
I got a dog.
Well, it didn’t happen exactly like that.
I had been talking about getting a dog before, but the place my boyfriend and I had been renting didn’t allow pets. So it really wasn’t an option. But when I had moved into the studio in Hawaii Kai, it was OK for me to have a pet, so I started looking around. Not seriously, just looking.
Then I saw her.
My friend had called, saying there was a little Pomeranian-toy fox terrier mix at a local pet store. All of her siblings had been adopted; she was still there — and had been for months. One of the workers had felt bad for her and was going to take her home since no one else wanted her.
But I did.
I went down to the pet store and, after she licked my nose while I cradled her in my arms, I knew I had to take her home.
I named her Sunny.
She was the sunshine in my life, exactly what I needed to pull out of the despair in which I had been sinking. I now had a reason to get up every morning, someone to make the little studio feel more homey. I started taking her to the Hawaii Kai Dog Park every afternoon, met a whole new group of friends — all of whom shared my love for dogs — and felt I had a purpose in life again.
Sunny saved me.
Of course, now I have two dogs — we added Indy to the family in 2010 — and life couldn’t be better. Sure, it’s more work taking care of two dogs. I can’t stay out late — need to walk the dogs — and I spend a lot of money on their vet visits, heartworm and flea medicines, grooming, kennel costs and high-quality food. But it’s been so worth it, especially for my mental well-being.
And I’m not alone.
Turns out, dog owners tend to be healthier — mentally and physically — than the average person.
Not only can dogs do amazing things like sniff out cancerous growths and detect low blood sugar levels, but they can act as “social catalysts,” helping people overcome feelings of loneliness and sadness, and force us to lead more healthful lifestyles.
Several studies have shown that dog owners have healthier statistics for several cardiovascular criteria, including blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels than non-owners. Additionally, studies have shown that heart attack sufferers who have pets have longer survival rates than those who don’t.
Good dog owners walk their dogs, and that’s exercise they might never have gotten without their canine companions. (I walk my dogs at least two miles a day, and we go on hikes just about every weekend.) And most owners tend to socialize with other dog owners, thereby improving or enhancing their social life. Even on walks, we meet folks who live in our neighborhoods.
I have to say, as much as I may complain about my dogs — Indy is obsessed with his ball and won’t let me sleep sometimes; Sunny can be aloof and bitchy — I couldn’t imagine my life without them. They are the reason I come home every night, the reason I get out of bed every morning, the reason I buy baby carrots and rawhide sticks.
If only they could cook and clean…