How a Dog Can Improve Your Health
Choosing the Right Dog for You
Sometimes I think how lucky my dog Halle is to live the life she is leading. The amount of attention she receives is probably more than most dogs. She goes for interesting walks and gets played with daily. She interacts with children, adults, and other animals often. Hunger is never an issue, fed morning and again in the afternoon, of course with the occasional treat. She has a permanent spot at the foot of our bed nightly, usually over my feet. We even take her on vacation with us. Lastly, she gets hugged and kissed very often, and seems to absolutely adore the attention.
Why? Before Halle, there were two children who grew to be teenagers. They were loved tremendously and still are, but we all know as our children grow to be adults, they need us less often - which is a very good thing, but we do miss those young years. Before Halle, there was Teddy, a German-Shepherd/Collie mix, who stole our hearts as a pup, and grew up with our children. But unlike them, growing stronger and more independent, Teddy grew old and feeble. Sadly, his body deteriorated before he was ready to say goodbye. Our children cried for a week. We were lucky to have him.
Before Teddy became feeble, we decided to get a puppy friend for him. My husband thought it was time to get that puppy for me as well, because we had decided not to have more children, yet my craving to nurture was still very strong. My best friend being pregnant at the time didn't help any either.
Upon visiting the animal shelter, it was an easy pick. There were lots of homeless dogs to choose from, but only one that did not want to eat when the food was brought by an arm that mechanically placed it on the floor and left. This dog was the only dog that futilely licked the arm, and then sat longingly looking up at the body and face attached to it, completely ignoring the food. While my children were looking at other dogs and excitedly pointing to them, I had already decided. She needed me.
"Animals are more complete than people. They are wonderful teachers, therapists and role models for us all." --Bernie Siegel, MD
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Giving a Dog a Great Life
The first few weeks were rough. It was like having a new baby, timewise. Halle had 3 different parasites and a severe case of kennel cough. A couple of days after bringing her home, she was sick with a fever, coughing like she was choking nonstop, and lifeless. I slept on the living room floor with her when she was at her worst. Kennel cough can kill a puppy, so we were extra careful that she received the care and medicine she needed. She was about 4 months old at the time.
Halle made it through those weeks and became the most energetic dog you've ever seen. She is part Border Collie and likes to "herd" things like sheep and children. We had to teach her not to nip and not to push people around with her nose, especially on the backside. I watched a lot of "The Dog Whisperer" to get helpful tips. They really worked. One of the things I did was put Halle on a leash when we had visitors (to prevent her from jumping on them and to have her sit). This was a much better alternative to putting her in another room, and over time she learned what was expected and became leashless.
Teddy and Halle became friends, although very different age-wise. It seemed like Halle came a little late, when Teddy was done playing. He only wanted to rest , be petted, and go for walks (on his old legs that didn't want to take him). They would lay near each other and their feet would often touch. So maybe Teddy enjoyed her companionship in the end a bit. I like to think so.
Halle has filled a void for me. Although just a dog, she is there for me to love and always loves back. I've enjoyed training her and am proud to have her as a pet. She brings joy to those who meet her. According to research, my time spent with Halle will actually extend my life. So, while she continues to have a great life, she will greatly add to mine.