Lunar New Year always reminds me of an amazing coincidence. I was born on #NationalDogDay in The Year of the Dog.
What makes this so hilarious is that I’m more than just a dog person. I’m a dog rescue advocate. I’ve had three rescue dogs in my adult life and undoubtedly would have had more if I had my say as a child. My two dogs, Brella and Gilligan, are more than just pets. They’re my wife Leora and my children and there’s nothing we wouldn’t do for them.
Brella and Gilligan
Our dogs, like all dogs, have unique mannerisms and temperaments. Brella, for example, is calm, collected and to some degree, refined! Her idea of a good day includes a leisurely walk around the neighbourhood, a brief run in the backyard and a good nap in her favourite spot on our living room couch. She doesn’t need to be pet all day, but still appreciates any attention we give her.
She’s also very funny. If you ask her to shake your hand, she delicately places her front paw on your hand. Her handshake is reminiscent of a royal greeting, hence why we sometimes call her Queen B! Her signature quirk, however, is her head-tilt. Brella is such a good head-tilter that we usually think we’re having conversations with her! Here’s a video for proof.
The interesting thing about dogs who head-tilt is they are showing signs of emotional intelligence. In a 2017 article on petmd.com, Dr. Nicholas Dodman “speculates that head-tilting dogs tend to be more sensitive than other pups, are highly attuned to sounds, and have a close emotional bond with their owners.” Head-tilting dogs are actively listening by waiting for a word, cue or sound that they can interpret into some form of action. Active listening is an indicator of high EQ and Brella demonstrates this as well as anyone — dog or human.
Gilligan, meanwhile, is a high-energy, food-motivated cuddlebug. He loves to play with anyone and everyone (people, dogs, cats…he doesn’t care!), there is no trick he won’t do for a treat and he’s always up for a good snuggle with either my wife or myself. What makes Gilligan special is how well he reads people’s emotions. He has a natural ability to change your mood with his goofy smile or snuggle. This has been very therapeutic for me, especially during the past year.
Children and Dogs
It’s been suggested that children who grow up with dogs experience many benefits, but I was struck by this article that states children with pets are more emotionally intelligent. The researchers’ assertion that “pets can make people feel unconditionally accepted, whereas fellow humans will judge and may criticize,” is something I believe all children can benefit from. I didn’t realize what this meant until I had my first dog Jazzy. When I was going through some very challenging times, she was always there for me. Although Jazzy passed away in mid-2019, Leora and I are grateful for how much she enriched our lives. Here’s one of my favourite videos of Jazzy walking down the aisle at our wedding in 2018.
As each of us continues to improve our emotional competencies, we should all take a moment to learn from our furry friends. As Josh Billings famously said in the 19th century “A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than you love yourself.”
And Happy New Year to all those who are celebrating this Year of the Ox.
I realize that dogs can make a big difference in life through many venues. It can be a great emotional support although I have never spent time with a dog but I do realize their many wonderful benefits!