Canine companionship has clear benefits


The past 17 years of my life have been filled with many emotions, successes, failures, tears and smiles. I’ve had family and friends pass away, and I’ve had new family and friends born. One thing that has always stayed the same while everything else in my life was changing was having my dog, Henry, by my side.  

Want to hear something funny? I used to be absolutely terrified of dogs. My babysitter while I was growing up had this fluffy little white dog that would make me cry if she came near me, but one day that all changed. These two boys forced me to pet this dog, and I’m pretty sure I had tears streaming down my face. I’m so thankful those boys made me pet her that day because I fell in love. I came home that night saying that I wanted a dog, and in just a month or two, Henry became a part of my family.

In the 12 years that Henry has been a part of my family, I have learned that dogs are probably some of the best companions to exist. He knows what I need whether it be cuddles or kisses or if I just need his presence. It’s like they have a sixth sense telling them exactly what you need.

According to the Research Center for Human/Animal Interaction, human interaction with animals boosts the human’s levels of oxytocin. The hormone oxytocin has both short-term and long-term effects. The short term effects include helping humans feel happy and trusting. In the long run, oxytocin helps our bodies heal quicker and grow new cells leading to a healthier life.

I can confirm that spending time with Henry instantly boosts my mood and makes me so much happier. His presence brings a smile to my face. If I’m crying about something, he knows that I need some cuddles without me having to even ask him. If I’m super excited about something, he gets excited with me too.

Besides just bringing me joy and happiness, Henry may even help me live longer. Owners of dogs and other animals may live longer compared to non-animal owners. According to the American Heart Association, there is a relationship between pet ownership and lower blood pressure, heart rate and blood cholesterol. People with dogs are more likely to get more physical activity and are less likely to be overweight or smoke. The study also found that “among people who have cardiovascular disease, those who own a pet, especially a dog, haver lower mortality rates than those who don’t.”

Along with helping physical problems, dogs and other animals can help with mental health as well. According to a survey conducted by the Human-Animal Bond Research Institute, 74 percent of pet owners said that having a pet improved their mental health.

As you can see, dogs have a positive impact on both mental and physical health. For me personally, Henry has improved both of mine. He makes me feel loved and important especially when he wants to come and cuddle. He improves my physical health because even on my laziest days, he finds a way for me to play with him. I couldn’t imagine life any other way without Henry and I hope that everyone has the opportunity for some kind of animal companionship, whether it be a dog or cat or even a fish.