When you have a dog, a whole new world opens for you. Walks down the sidewalk are no longer power walks spent texting or talking on your cell phone, but a chance to meet neighbors and fellow dog lovers who stop to admire your dog and then get to know you. In today’s busy world, people often lament that they don’t even know their neighbors. But if you’re a dog owner, I bet you know the name, breed, and age of every dog in your neighborhood, where they like to play, and what kind of dog food they eat. Nameless neighbors become “Ginger’s Mom” and “Rex’s Dad.” And research shows these social connections that occur because of our dogs are good for our health and actually help us live longer.
Last weekend, I was speaking at a medical conference in central Pennsylvania and enjoyed the picturesque drive that passes historic Fort Necessity near Uniontown. I’ve driven past many times, always telling myself that one day I should visit the site. This year, my husband and dogs joined me at the meeting and, instead of racing past, we said, “I’m sure the dogs would love to check out the fort.” So instead of racing home to chores, laundry, and emails, my dogs lead us on a wonderful tour through history, obliging to be my models for several photos along the way. So an afternoon that might have been filled with stress was replaced with exercise, fresh air, and laughter.
Our dogs take us to exercise and socialize at the dog park, to classes, and out shopping, usually stopping for sniffs along the way that draw our attention to a world we might have otherwise sped by. Through my dogs, I’ve met some of the most incredible people. Amazing people who raise, train, and rescue dogs. I’ve met folks from the show dog world and snuggled one of Michael Vick’s former fighting dogs. Last week, I had the incredible honor of interviewing four-time Iditarod winner Lance Mackey who spends his days with 100 sled dogs. How cool is that?! It’s amazing how our dogs can open doors for us and take us places we’d never have known without them. So where have your dogs taken you lately?
What benefits can you expect by being more involved in your community:
Believe it or not, all of these can be important benefits of being more socially engaged. Numerous research studies have proven that taking an interest in your fellow man and being man’s best friend significantly improve your outlook on life and your long-term health. Excerpted from Fit As Fido: Follow Your Dog to Better Health