We know that dogs make people happy. In a time when there is much division in terms of how individuals are viewing the world politically and even personally, one thing virtually everyone can agree on is the goodness of canines. There are conflicting views among experts about what really drives us to connect with dogs the way that we do, but whatever the psychological reasons happening below the surface in our daily lives, there are so many reasons to see the value in our dogs.
Unlike much of our experiences in the world, the dogs in our lives are typically just good. If we take a step back and consider the dogs that may not be in our daily lives, what we discover is even more reason to love them and, by extension, to love life.
People who are optimistic are poised for fulfilling lives because they are more likely to enjoy good mental and physical health. And the crazy but unsurprising reality is that dogs are prime reasons to feel more optimistic about life.
At times, they seem to embody the ideals of humanity more than humanity itself does, and that can provide just the foundation for humanity to feel a bit more like itself.
It can be easy when you watch a 2-year-old tug on the hair of a dog to see their good-natured inclination to weather a storm. But there are real-world examples that demonstrate just how tough our four-legged friends are. And that toughness serves to remind us of the value of resilience.
We are all familiar with the story of dogs who have been lost. Unfortunately, even with our best intentions and preparations, you can’t prepare for every eventuality. The very worst possibility can become reality, but sometimes a dog not only comes home without any outside help, but they also come home from miles and miles away.
One such dog is Buck. Amy Jamieson reported for People, “Buck, a 3-year-old Labrador, traveled 500 miles to get to Myrtle Beach, S.C., after his owner Mark Wessells left the dog with his father in Winchester, Va.”
A kind samaritan found Buck and took him to get shots where the vet found a microchip that allowed him to be returned to Wessells, who was a mere few miles away.
What is better for the heart than seeing examples of the literal underdog, defying logic to return to home?
Perhaps there’s nothing worse than seeing our four-legged friends suffer, and that’s because we can often relate when they do. We understand fear, and we get physical ailments. But that means that when they overcome those physical ailments they provide inspiration for the rest of us.
Wheely Willy was severely abused as a puppy, and the injuries to his spine left him a paraplegic. But after his owner rescued him and got him a wheelchair, he went on to be featured on Animal Planet, and he was the inspiration for two children’s books!
Similarly, dogs have even been able to adapt and heal thanks to novel healthcare techniques. The Keck School of Medicine notes how 3D printing is providing replicas of problem areas for patients: “3D printing technology isn’t just for humans! Meet Derby the dog.”
Derby was born without front legs, and yet his 3D printer prosthetic legs have him running around like any other dog.
The thing about resilience is that when we see it in others, even if that other individual is a pooch and not a human, we’re able to reflect on the role that it can have in our own lives. Whether it be Willy or Derby or another example of a dog who endures and is able to live a fulfilling life, it grants us a foundation to recognize that the same may be true for ourselves, whatever our mountain is.
Accountability may not sound like something that you can possibly get from a dog; we often can’t even count on people to provide it. But truly, dogs can become integral parts of our lives and can become surprising influences. Often, it’s only in retrospect that we see just how influential they’ve been.
The Los Angeles Times noted that pets promote sobriety in those recovering from substance abuse. They write, “The mood-boosting benefits of exercise are important in someone’s return to physical and emotional health. A dog’s regular demand for a walk or a cat’s insistence on chasing a string might make it easier to get moving.”
The benefits of exercise have been proven an effective aid in combating addiction. Let that sink in. Dogs, by just being dogs, can prompt behavior in humans that can help them overcome potentially deadly addictions. It’s enough to boggle the mind.
Here’s the deal: we all know that pets are an added expense. If you own a dog, you have to have the extra space in your budget to afford their necessities. Additionally, like us, they get sick and have unexpected needs. And if you’re a typical pet owner, you’re buying more than the necessities; you’re purchasing a large array of toys for chewing, throwing, and cuddling.
For some, that critical assessment only happens when they’re met with the hope that they can afford a dog. If you don’t believe it, Google it. The internet is filled to the brim with credible sources walking individuals through the financial commitment required by dog ownership.
Why? Because it is a serious concern, and for some they are only driven to get their finances arranged when they are hoping to add a furry member to their family. Money doesn’t lead to happiness, but it is a necessary element of participating in some of life’s most rewarding activities. For some, risk factors like bankruptcy and bad credit keep them walking the straight and narrow with their budgets, but for others, the chance of man’s best friend becoming a part of the family is all the incentive they need.
Most of us have dogs that would go to hell and back for us, they just don’t have to. From the smallest pups to the largest among them, one common chord is the bravery that exists when they believe there is a threat. Sometimes that threat is just a squirrel on the bird feeder, but sometimes it’s real and dangerous.
Mia: Emilie Clark told The Guardian about the night that her mini dachshund jumped into her lap and began furiously licking part of her chest, which concerned her because that is what Mia would do when Clark had a bruise or wound.
Clark said, “My faith in Mia’s diagnostic abilities wasn’t misplaced. I had an ultrasound within a week and, sure enough, there was a lump that a biopsy later confirmed was grade 2a breast cancer. Two days later, I was in surgery having the lump removed.”
Mini dachshunds typically max out around 12 pounds — Mia was a tiny dog that saved her owner’s life.
Chips: Before it was decided that canines do not deserve the same medals that are awarded to humans, Chips, who fought in WWII, was awarded the Silver Star.
Marylou Tousignant writes for The Washington Post, “In 1943 Chips became the only animal ever awarded the Silver Star, the U.S. military’s third-highest medal for bravery in combat. He was also nominated for the Distinguished Service Cross (the second-highest award) and a Purple Heart for wounds he received while in Italy.”
In 1943, Chips caused an Italian machine gun crew to surrender. Though he sustained a head wound and burns, he charged them. That same day, his sense of smell led to the capture of 10 other enemy soldiers.
These are two examples of dogs acting in such a way, that by anyone’s standards, are heroic. The goodness of dogs is so striking, because they have nothing conventional to gain from their behavior. Unlike human beings who typically operate along the lines of a culturally derived moral compass, dogs know no such direction.
All a dog has to gain by being loyal or courageous or self-sacrificing is us. In a world that is often motivated by personal gain and accomplishments, the end result is often difficult. When the purpose of any endeavor is self-sacrificing, it can produce fractured, painful things.
But dogs don’t operate like that. Beyond a good belly rub, they’re not primarily looking for ways to elevate themselves. And that translates to all sorts of amazing qualities like resilience, accountability, and protection — and those qualities inevitably produce optimism in the humans who have the pleasure of being around them.
Thus, dogs are more than just our pals or companions; they’re changing lives by making their people a little more hopeful about tomorrow.
Devin writes from somewhere along the West Coast. He is infected with wanderlust but always tries to bring his dog, Scrummy, along for the ride. You can follow him on Twitter.