The Kind Of Pawsitivity We Need

Dogs are man’s best friends, right? Read along to find out why they may be the very embodiment of the kind of positivity (err… pawsitivity) we all need. But first, a little stage setting. (Warning: crazy whiney content involved.)

A couple of weeks ago, I had the good fortune of meeting two of the most adorable beings I have come across in my life so far — Miley and Magi. This mother-daughter duo stole my heart the moment they set it racing with their scary (but cute) barks. Miley and Magi, both golden labrador retrievers are my friend’s pets and this was the first time that I was meeting them.

For the last couple of months (read, years), I had been seriously deliberating on the thought of getting a pet dog myself. I had been scanning through articles and blogs about having pets, exploring dog training videos on YouTube, watching vets talk about how to greet a dog correctly, and what not! In my mind, I felt I was prepared to meet these girls. I had never come close to grown dogs before (except the street dogs my mother warns me against petting), but I was determined to make friends with these two. And let me tell you, nothing that you’ve read or heard or seen can ever prepare you for the real deal, and I realized it the moment I offered my hand to let Magi sniff it and get familiarized with me — she let out a loud bark and I almost jumped a mile back (trust me, it felt like it)! Miley followed suit, and within a few seconds, they were barking at me as if (from my viewpoint) they didn’t like me. I had apocalyptic thoughts racing through my mind, “they don’t like me”, “they will bite me”, “I can’t even run fast enough”, “if today is the day I go, so be it” — and it made me more anxious. All the while, my friend kept telling me, “Stay calm. They can sense your fear. If you calm down, they will too. There’s nothing to be scared of. They won’t bite, they are very gentle.”

I started breathing deeply (that’s what I tell my clients to do whenever they get anxious) to try and keep myself calm. Within a couple of minutes, when I called out to Miley, she lightly brushed against my leg and wagged her tail — that was my cue to pet her… but I didn’t. I know, I lost that first opportunity because I could hardly bring my focus on her enough to understand what she may have been trying to tell me. So, I called out to her again, and this time I slowly brought my hand near her chin to gently scratch her. And within seconds I was petting her and hugging her and rubbing her belly while she enjoyed the attention (and asked for more!). In those moments, I completely forgot about everything else! I didn’t care if I was giggling weirdly or if my laugh was too loud or if I was behaving awkwardly or if there were people around (or for that matter if they thought I was crazy). All I cared for at that moment was Miley.

This was just half the battle won. As smart and calm as Miley was, Magi was the exact opposite! At first, Magi was too distracted to even pay heed to me (we were at a dog cafe with a bunch of other people going gaga about dogs). But soon she started feeling jealous and came up to us — that was my cue! And this time I seized the day (I mean, the moment)! I gently patted her shoulder and when she came close enough and sniffed my hand, I started petting her too. Mission accomplished!

It wasn’t until I got home that I realized what had just happened. As I looked back on my day, I noticed how I had been so engrossed in getting Miley and Magi’s attention, laughing at every little thing they did, talking to them, kissing them, hugging them, laughing at everyone else’s reaction to them, smiling and giggling and being childlike all at once. Most importantly — I didn’t care about anything or anyone else. What seemed like a couple of minutes, were two and a half hours! The world around me ceased to exist except for those two. I didn’t even care if there was delicious food getting cold on the table (or for that matter, eating that cold food), and I didn’t even feel the need to talk about anything or anybody else but them. I felt so alive and loved that words cannot describe.

Here are the points I have to make.

A dog can help you become more tolerant, patient, and open-minded. Being with a dog means everything is about them. All you feel like doing is petting them or hyper-focusing on their ecstatic tail wags. And that’s it! Dogs have so much love to offer that I personally believe none of us humans have it in us to contain it. We are willing to do for them, what we would most likely not do for any fellow human, that is, slam-dunking all our rules and principles into the trash can — sloppy kisses (“it’s the secret to my glowing skin”), cheesy names (“aww, aren’t you such a patootie!”), fur on your favorite dresses (“it’s my favorite accessory”), heart-melting puppy-eyes (“I just can’t stay mad at you even though you destroyed my earphones”), hogging the bed when they have their own (“it’s okay, who doesn’t love cuddles?”) — the list is endless.

A dog’s world will be all about you (apart from when they are eating, because food is everything, don’t you agree?). Dogs are some of the most loving creatures you can ever come across. They will love you when you are sad and they will love you when you are out in the park throwing the frisbee. They will forgive you when you scold them and when you accidentally step on their tail. They will care for you in sickness and in health. They will be equally excited to see you come home after spending eight hours at work and to see you come out of the bathroom after a shower (unless they don’t barge into the bathroom to see you take a shower. They are just guarding you, not being creepy). Not to mention, they will be clingy.

A dog will be loyal to you, no matter what. Dogs are known for their loyalty. They may be mischievous, but they are willing to listen to you. They may be aggressive, but they would do anything to protect you. They may appear carefree, but they are always vigilant about you. They may not know your language, but they know how to comfort you. They may live for a short while, but they will live for you. So if you indeed have a dog, don’t give up on your dog, for he will never give up on you. And in case you don’t have a dog — make sure you have the intention of sticking to him, come what may — before you get one.

Being around dogs increases the number of endorphins in your system — making you feel happy and upbeat. This is not the kind of momentary happiness you get after listening to a good joke, instead, it is the kind of happiness that stays with you long after. It is as if your dog has wrapped a big warm and fuzzy blanket of positivity around you. And each time you hug them, kiss them, pet them, snuggle with them, play with them or just be in their company the size of that blanket grows. This is one of the reasons why dogs make incredible support animals — they genuinely want to be there for you and make you smile. They help ease anxiety, lift your spirits when you are depressed, sense when you are about to have a panic attack and instantly help calm you down, not to mention they are ready to share your food even when they have satiated themselves (because food is everything, don’t you agree?).

All in all, having a dog is like having a best friend, guardian, morning alarm, snuggle buddy, goofball, and therapist — rolled into one!

The benefits of being in the company of dogs are far too many to ignore. While I do acknowledge that many of you might not be dog persons (or any kind of animal persons, for that matter), I would still like to encourage you to try it out for yourself — go pet a dog, befriend a dog and let open the doors to a more positive life. And if you have a dog, make sure you love him as much you as can at least, if not as much as he can.

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Aparna Nayyar

Aparna Nayyar

I write to help people lead more fulfilling lives by helping them take care of their psychological well-being.