Unconditional love in an Unpredictable world.
When life feels stormy and chaotic, we instinctively reach for an anchor. The media is firing messages at us, social media is confusing us; computers are tap tapping away, Zoom has galleries of anonymous faces: but to whom do we turn?
The early Greeks and Romans adored them, so did Warhol, Freud, Picasso, Beatrix Potter, Elton John and Miley Cyrus. Poets and writers wax lyrical, artists paint and draw them, children hug them, talk to them…
They are of course the notable species, Canis Lupus Familaris… the dog.
Dogs are companions, personal trainers, therapists, playmates, soul mates, war heroes, hospital companions, and lifesavers. And today, even Covid-19 detectors. They are polymaths with hearts of gold.
With their unconditional love they can help soothe the anxious, be a friend in need, a listening ear when words are too much, a furry hug when nothing else will do. They neither judge nor abandon us and they can bring joyful laughter and comfort in times of stress. Research shows that dogs can reduce anxiety and stress physiologically (cortisol levels) and increase attachment responses that release oxytocin. By simply stroking a dog, it can help lower blood pressure, regulate breathing and increase a sense of calm.
My own experience of the remarkable canine ability to tune into the emotional and physical wellbeing of their human companions reflects the stories I hear from almost every dog owner I meet.
From dogs who refuse to leave their companion’s sickbed to those who sense when a human is physically or mentally ill, our domesticated wolves have lost none of their natural pack sensibilities.
As adored owner to Rothko (Bassett Fauve de Bretagne, a posh sounding name for a red bundle of fur), I have a mentor and companion always with me. As Dr Rothko in his professional life, he is therapist to children and adolescents, cunningly hiding his clinical observations behind a veil of sleep.
One normal, busy day, I was having a clinical meeting with colleagues. One of my clients – we’ll call her Tilly – had arrived early and I had left her in our comfortable waiting room while we finished the meeting. Rothko was, as usual, in the meeting with us. (He likes to be involved in important decisions).
This time, however, Rothko started scratching at the door and whining to be let out. Without our paying too much attention, the door was opened and he sloped out. After the meeting, I went to find him so he could join me with Tilly, who always loved having the scruffy hound join us in her sessions. But he was not in his usual haunts.
Slightly concerned that he had made a break for the park, I called his name. To my surprise, Tilly answered, saying that Rothko was with her. I found the pair of them huddled up on the sofa together. I immediately saw that Tilly had been crying and sat down with her to ask what had happened.
While we were in the meeting, Tilly had had a panic attack. Unable to call for help, she had curled up on the floor of the waiting room. As the attack grew worse, she had begun to feel that she could not breathe. Just as her terror was reaching an unbearable pitch, Dr Rothko’s intuition kicked in and he had ambled into the room and snuggled up next to her. She had held onto him, and his familiar, slightly smelly, calming presence had allowed her to escape the clutches of her frightening attack. As soon as Tilly was breathing normally, Dr Rothko trundled off to his usual corner to sleep.
I am sure that almost every dog owner has a similar story to tell about their furry friend’s sensitivity and big heart. As we humans deal with the current tsunami of anxiety, we can confidently turn to the soothing presence of our wise, loyal, and ever generous hounds. Their example reminds us not to worry too much about ourselves but to look outward for those in our pack who might be in greater need. Dogs, Dogs, Glorious dogs………..
Please send in photos of your dog and what they mean to you and how they help you.
Dr Rothko has his own Instagram page @dr_rothko_paws_for_thought
Author: Caroline Logsdail
Caroline works at TRC which has clinics in London and Edinburgh