I believe in dogs. Every evening when I come home from another day spent lawyering, the first thing I hear when I approach my front door is the sound of eight thundering paws echoing off the wooden floors of my house as my two dogs race to be the first to greet me. I open the door and am ecstatically greeted by my two rescue dogs – Jasmine, a chihuahua mix, and Vladimir, a Doberman Pinscher. At that exact moment, the stress from my day starts to melt away.
There are numerous studies concluding that having a dog in your life lowers blood pressure, anxiety and stress levels. There are even more anecdotes of dogs saving their owners from house fires, detecting skin cancer, helping their owners through times of grief and other extraordinary feats. In polls, most dog owners admit that they refer to themselves as their dog’s parent and that they buy their dog Christmas presents.
I truly believe that having dogs has improved my quality of life. I have suffered from depression since I was 17. The severity of the symptoms has ebbed and flowed over time. About two years ago I decided to accept a job offer in a new town. Soon after I started this new job, I discovered that I had made a very poor decision. During the year that I stayed at this job, my depression was at an all time low. Every morning it took a monumental effort to get up, get dressed and go to work. It was almost impossible for me to see anything positive in my life.
But there was one bright spot. Each evening when I walked in the door, I would send my dogs outside and tell Vladimir to play with his favorite toy – a big rubber ball on a rope. He would grab the toy and race to the same spot in the yard. Vladimir would then proceed to bounce around in a circle like a bucking bronco, swinging the rope toy and inevitably hitting himself in the face with the rubber ball. Every time he played this game it was obvious to me that he felt an all-encompassing sense of joy and freedom. Even through the fog of depression, a laugh would escape and I would feel a brief glimmer of happiness as I watched my 100-pound dog bouncing around with abandon.
Many people have complimented me for choosing to rescue my dogs from lives of neglect and abuse. I always think to myself that all I did was open my home to two of the world’s greatest dogs and they proceeded to do all the rescuing. They helped me come out on the other side of my darkest time and to truly appreciate the value of unconditional love.
Now I have a great job where I work with extraordinary people, but I still look forward to the thundering paws and the wagging tails.
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