Owning a Dog; Part 2

Yesterday I dove into the subject of dog ownership by examining all the reasons why potential dog owners should think twice before bringing home a pooch. Believe me, I have been guilty of perusing puppy porn on the Internet for hours at a time, drooling over fluffy balls of cuteness. I can honestly tell you that there is nothing more adorable on earth to me than a puppy. But after owning quite a few, I have learned that the puppy stage is ridiculously brief, extremely labor-intensive, and quite filthy, in addition to adorable. Having a puppy in the house is ALMOST as exhausting as having a baby. So after several screw-up's with the Akita breeder we had chosen, we decided 2 years ago to rescue a 4 year old Akita rather than continue waiting for a litter of puppies. Best decision ever.

Because after enumerating all the costs, responsibilities, and irritations of dog ownership, I wanted to share some of the rewards. Obviously there is a reason (quite a few!) why anyone halfway sane would choose to put up with all those annoyances in order to own a pooch.

Sharing your life with dogs can benefit humans in so many ways. Just stroking your dog's fur has immediate benefits for your health. Petting a dog can lower blood pressure and increase the release of calming hormones, like oxytocin. For older adults whose children have left the nest, dogs can provide a kind of loving companionship and another creature to care for on a day-to-day basis. It is very important for people to feel needed, and dogs can provide this for their owners.

Dogs require daily walks, play sessions, and other forms of exercise. Although there are certainly dog owners who shirk this duty, responsible owners benefit greatly from the daily walks. Before we rescued our Akita, we walked our German Shepherd daily for his bathroom breaks. But we didn't consistently give him a LONG walk, as our younger Akita requires. So these days Mr. Balancing Act and I walk both dogs together for at least 45 minutes to an hour every single morning. Yes, we have to get up earlier. Sometimes we get soaked in the rain. Sometimes we get frozen in the wind. But the daily walk is non-negotiable. And this is a healthy start to the day for all of us. A time for us to chat and make plans together as well as bond with our furry babies.

Because dogs retain a sense of playfulness for their whole lives, they can help to bring out their owner's inner child. Even a very serious dog, like our German Shepherd, likes to play. Because our GSD is a working-type shepherd (bred specifically for police work) he likes to play in a very organized and specific manner. His play is repetitious and has rules. Our Akita is the complete opposite. She likes to break up the game of fetch by stealing the ball or the kong, running away with it, taunting our shepherd, and playing tug-of-war with him. Although he is older and weaker, he wins at this game every single time because Akitas get bored quickly and move on to the next game. Shepherds are totally task-oriented and will only relinquish in tug-of-war on command. Our Akita also loves to play hide-and-seek. She gets a big kick out of hiding from us and then tearing out of her hiding spot when she is found. Compared to our shepherd, she has a very funny sense of humor and likes to goof around and act silly. They make a pretty awesome pair!

Lastly, dogs are devoted and loving companions. They can can offer their humans a snuggle and a kiss when a little affection is most needed. They don't care what you look like in the morning, and they love you no matter what you ate for dinner the night before. They never criticize your sense of fashion or worry about your hairdo. In fact, the only time a dog will ever get grumpy is if he is in pain. And often, not even then.

But be warned! Dogs will steal your heart. They will worm their way in there with their big, beautiful eyes and their soft snouts. They will make you do crazy things you never thought you'd be caught dead doing. The first time we left our newly rescued Akita at home with just our shepherd, I called our home phone to leave her a message on the voicemail! If that is not love, I'm not sure what is.