Tag Archives: dogs as comforters

Dogs take care of us, too!

This week we got a great reminder of how our dogs take care of us. Hope was “down for the count” – about 36 hours with fever, chills, nausea, and a blinding headache. The worst part? She couldn’t even call in sick – it happened on her day off.

These dogs take care of us

Fran was a bit concerned. Dealing with four dogs, two of them absolute nut-jobs (the Boston Terriers, of course!), when you’re not feeling well sounds like a bit much. She shouldn’t have worried. It’s like the dogs have a supernatural sense of what we need from them. 

When we can cope with the nuttiness, they’re goofballs. When we can’t, they rise to the occasion. This week they cuddled the whole time – no playing “bitey-face,” or wrestling. Simon didn’t even bat at Tango’s beard to aggravate him. Okay, that’s a lie. He did it once, but it was half-hearted at best.

Dogs take care of us

Hope shifted between a couple of sick-beds – one the couch in the family room and the other her actual bed. She’s never actually hosted all four dogs at night, so the bedroom didn’t work out so well. Fortunately, she falls asleep on the couch in the family room on a regular basis, so the dogs all know their cuddle spots.

Torque, Hope’s 6-year-old French Bulldog, prefers knees. Whether resting his head on them or curled up behind them doesn’t seem to matter. He’s equally content. And once he settles, there’s not much that gets him moving, other than the promise of treats. He may look up if you ask him if he wants to go outside, but he may not, too.

Tango (Fran’s 12-year old Brussels Griffon) isn’t an in-touch guy. He wants to be near, but needs his own space. And it has to be long enough for him to stretch out – none of this curling-up nonsense for Tango!

Special, indeed

Then we come to the Bostons. We’ve mentioned before how “special” Booker is. Life is difficult for Bookie, so we try to keep his routine as predictable as possible. This occasion was extremely routine-disruptive, but Fran’s 8-year-old boy outdid himself. He was only incredibly annoying once! 

Incredibly annoying in Booker terms, consists of sitting immediately next to you on the couch, facing you, staring into your face, and if you’re not petting him, pawing (clawing) at your arm. As dog trainers, we know how to stop the behavior. We’ve taught Booker the word “Relax!” which means he’s supposed to lie down next to us, paws to himself, and we will pet him. To explain how “special” Booker is, we have to reteach him this behavior every single day. Multiple times each day. Yesterday, we only went through it once! Good boy, Booker!

And then there’s Simon

Simon is a two-year-old Boston Terrier. He’s astonishingly smart, incredibly headstrong, sweet when he wants to be, and supremely selfish. Simon wants what he wants when he wants it, and he doesn’t want anyone getting in his way.

And yet. This week Simon curled up nicely next to the patient, sighed sweetly, and napped most of the day. And that’s how our wonderful dogs take care of us.

All our dogs are now comfort dogs

We really thought, back in 2001, that we’d lived through the worst tragedy that could befall a nation. But this is 2020 and it seems determined to out-do the extremes of every past year. All of our dogs have become “comfort dogs.”

Dogs are filling more roles for people now than ever before. Whether times have just become that much more stressful, or we’ve recognized how intelligent and empathetic dogs are. Dogs are the only animals that humans have partnered with, in so very many ways.

Truly our best friends

We admit that the last few months would have been practically impossible if we didn’t have our dogs. When feeling despondent, they’re always there to cuddle and hug. 

On the days that worry is overwhelming, we grab some treats and ask the dogs to come play training games with us. It doesn’t change the situation, but it distracts us. And playing with our dogs, even for just a few minutes, always lightens our mood.

Hope and her comfort dog Teddy

And during the days when we felt trapped and restless, but had nowhere to go and nothing to do, we could grab a leash, a dog, and head out the door. When you have a dog, you can just walk. No errand to complete, no particular destination. 

Or if we get a notion to be ambitious, the dogs are always there to supervise any improvement project. And share our frustration when things go wrong, or joy when they go right. 

Comfort dogs

We know quite a few people who partner with their dogs for animal therapy programs, visiting nursing homes, hospitals, even universities during finals weeks. All of these programs have been on hold for months – no visitors allowed. We feel sorry for those who haven’t gotten their dog “fixes.” And for the dogs and their people on hiatus. All parties benefited from those visits. We know how much they’re all missing them.

We remember, this week especially, all the roles dogs play during tragedies. The search and rescue dogs. The comfort dogs. And especially the family companions who, like ours, all received extra hugs.

Much more than “pets”

Most of all, we feel sorry for everyone who doesn’t “get” what we’re talking about. For those who don’t know how dogs enrich our lives, expand our understanding, and demonstrate, every day, the meaning of uncondiional love. 

Roger Caras said it best: “Dogs have given us their absolute all. We are the center of their universe. We are the focus of their love and faith and trust. They serve us in return for scraps. It is without a doubt the best deal man has ever made.”

Sleepless nights and dog therapy

Depiction of sleepless: a silhouette of a human head with a whirl of purple and white seeming to drain into the brain.

It’s one of those sleepless nights. It’s 4:25 a.m. I fell asleep on the couch around 9 p.m., woke up about midnight. Let the dog out, went to bed. And I’ve been awake ever since.

I understand it’s part of adulting – there are some days when the overwhelming muchness of life is just too much and our brains just can’t stop whirling. There isn’t really anything in particular – it’s just the weight of everything crashing in.

Safety in dogs

What does any of this have to do with dogs?  For people like us, dogs are our living, breathing, cuddling sanctuaries – by definition “place of refuge or safety.”

No matter what’s going on in your life, you’re not alone as long as you have a dog. That’s priceless. 

The other day we spoke to a friend who was absolutely despondent. The stress of work, news, and a car accident built up to an almost-crisis point. Granted, she’s a person who leads with her heart, but we think she was more than a little serious when she said that, if it weren’t for her dogs, she’d consider suicide. 

Dogs are that important. 

As I (Hope) write this, I’m sitting in bed, listening to the (very early) morning news, with my dog’s back warming the length of my leg. Even asleep, he’s a constant source of comfort and connection.

Every single day our dogs give us lots of reasons to keep going. We get up because they need to be walked, fed, and taken care of. Exercise is crucial for our dogs, as well as for us, so we get dressed every day and get out of the house. And every day our dogs give us reasons to smile – because they’re hooligans and make us laugh. Most days the dogs are a reason to go somewhere and do something.

We’ve mentioned many times that one of the reasons we play dog sports with our dog (obedience, rally, agility) is because it lets us connect with other dog people. And we all know that people who love dogs are the best people in the world. 

Getting rid of the noise

The other reason – we get to forget all the outside pressures in our lives. For that hour or two, all we have to think about is having fun with our dogs.

That little “recess” may not change much, but it does elevate our mood and let us keep our troubles in perspective. 

We’re not happy about being up pre-dawn. But we’ll sit here and reduce our stress level by petting our dog, breathing deep, and sharing our thoughts with you.

Our dogs are champion cuddlers

Fran on Friday

Teddy, Booker and Torque cuddling.

Teddy, Booker and Torque cuddling

Teddy started it. He’s the best cuddler on the planet. He just tucks right into my left side and curls up. Sometimes he doesn’t even wait for me to sit down all the way. He just starts curling and, plop! there he is, perfectly situated for maximum cuddling.

Yes, we let the dogs on the furniture. How else can we cuddle?

Booker is not the most restful dog, as most Bostons are not. But sometimes, when he’s really tired, he’ll lie down next to me. And Torque is just 7 months old and would usually much rather be playing or chewing on a bone.

I wasn’t feeling well yesterday and left work early. I put on my comfy veggie chef pants and a T-shirt, and sat back on the couch. Teddy was waiting (he’s the blond on the left). Then Booker came up. And Torque asked to be picked up (he hasn’t figured out how to jump on the couch yet). And this is how we napped away the afternoon.