Challenging beliefs – #4: Dogs are ‘just animals’

“Why do you care so much? They are just animals!” I cannot count how many times I have heard this phrase from people. To claim that animals are ‘just things’ shows, in my opinion, a lack of empathy and deepened perspective and appreciation in life.
Our generation has to learn that the world does not evolve just around people and that animals and the environment matter too. Most people luckily understand and live by this. However, just like there are people out there who believe gay parents should not adopt and raise children, there are people who think animals, including dogs, are ‘just things’. Ironically, dog-people know that dogs have bigger hearts than these kind of people – and that is why people love dogs so much. Not because they are better than people, but because they sometimes behave better.
Dogs are not ‘just things’ and they are very important for a human’s happy life and development. Here are the reasons why.

  1. Dogs empathise with human pain and stress and are eager to help comfort suffering humans. Think about how therapy dogs are used to cure people from depression, post-traumatic stress syndrome, autism, etc. Dogs reduce human suffering.
  2. Dogs can detect cancer and have shown from 70-99% accuracy in detecting lung cancer in a patient nearby. Dogs can also detect low blood sugar, certain allergens and seizures before they happen. The interesting thing is that certain dogs can do this and it is a natural occurrence. People cannot train dogs to do this. Dogs can literally help save lives.
  3. Dogs reduce work stress and employees who can bring their dog to the office have less stress and are happier with their job, simply because the dog is around. Dogs make people happy.
  4. Dogs help babies and kids stay healthy. Babies growing up with dogs have shown to have a higher immune system and are less likely to develop eczema. Dogs make humans healthier.
  5. Dogs help people stay in shape. Kids and adults with dogs are more active, partly due to the walks with the dogs. Again, dogs make humans healthier.
  6. Dogs help people to be more social as they help people to get out more, approach others more easily and reduce isolation. Dogs make humans meet other humans.
  7. Dogs can heal your wounds by licking them. Studies have shown that saliva, both the human and doggie variety, can help stimulate nerves and muscles, and get oxygen moving again, which is the secret ingredient in helping wounds to heal. Dogs help humans heal, literally and figuratively.
  8. Dogs help older people stay healthy. Studies have found that older people who own dogs average at least one less doctor appointment per year than those who do not.
  9. Dogs reduce your risk of heart problems. Scientists believe that this is due to the higher level of activity and lower levels of stress. Dog lovers know that this is because your heart grows stronger when you love a dog.
  10. Dogs also help students study better. Programs that provide therapy dogs to campuses for overworked students to pet, play with, or just plain cuddle with, have proven successful in calming down students and improving their test scores. Dogs help humans be more focused and learn better.
  11. Dogs can help prevent bullying. Experimental programs have been launched that bring dogs into schools to promote empathy, with the lesson that you shouldn’t treat people badly, because you wouldn’t do it to a dog. Thus far, kids have been able to make the connection. Dogs help humans empathise. The problem with this one is that people who lack empathy would not look into this to start with and miss all the other lessons too.
  12. Dogs can help people stick to a schedule, which helps in daily life – especially for people with depression or dementia. Dogs keep humans going strong.
  13. Dogs can strengthen bonds between humans. A recent study at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University found that people who have strong connections to their pets also have social and relationship benefits. The researchers surveyed 500 18- to 26-year-olds and found that those who had “strong attachment to pets reported feeling more connected to their communities and relationships.” They also found that the more attached a person was to an animal as a teenager and young adult, the more empathetic and confident he or she was. Dogs help humans be better people.
  14. Dogs can make people feel happier just by having people look at them. A 2009 study by Miho Nagasawa of Azabu University in Japan found that one’s level of oxytocin (the neurohormone that elicits feelings of happiness) raised intensely after interacting with their dogs. And the only interaction they needed was to stare into their dog’s eyes. Those who looked longer into their dog’s eyes had the bigger dose of oxytocin.

Dogs have proven to make people happier and healthier. Are happiness and health not the only two things that really matter in life? And this is why people love their dogs (and other pets so much), they are not ‘just animals’. While I do not humanise dogs (they are not allowed on the couch or bed, they don’t get to eat the same food, they don’t eat at the same time, etc.), I do love them the same as people. And when dogs behave better than certain people, yes – I do love them more. (I notice that the more I am surrounded by idiots and assholes, the more I love dogs/animals.) When people say they love their dog more than some of their relatives, think about it this way: who does this human spend more time with, their dog or these people they see once while? Who does this human have a closer bond with, their dog or these people they see once in a while? And how do these people they see once in a while make this human feel as compared to how their dog makes them feel? Things are not as simple as they seem and people do not ‘just’ love their pets more than other people. Think about this the next time that your staff asks if they can bring their dog to work (and please note that many progressive companies have now allowed for a dog policy at work: Google, Amazon, Ben&Jerry’s, Humane Society, PETA) or asks for leave when their pet is sick, dying or passed away.
If the reasons above do not convince you that dogs are amazing animals and if you still think they are ‘just animals’, then you have shown to possess less empathy than most dogs. And because of that, I probably do like dogs more than you.

Sources: Distractify and Huffington Post.

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