Anyone who loves dogs as much as I do knows that they have a special gift of “knowing”. They instinctively pick up on how people are feeling; they know joy and sadness, and everything in between. Without saying a word, they have the uncanny ability to be able to just sit beside us in silence and solidarity as we navigate through difficult times; their presence is comforting, and it reassures us that we are not alone. We can say anything to them and they will never fault us for our honesty and moments of weakness; they do not judge, only love without condition. I can’t imagine my life without a dog by my side. Every single failure and heartbreak that I have had, I’ve gotten through it with a loyal best friend to give me strength and purpose.
A dog has a gift of sensing when someone is ill, and even near death. There is scientific evidence that therapy dogs provide both mental and physical benefits to those that are in hospice care; their presence has a calming effect. The soft texture of their fur can provide warmth and comfort to those who are in pain and feeling anxious.
My father loves having our family dogs visit; they are a welcome distraction to our new reality. Watching our golden retriever, Riley, play with a squeaky toy, or gently drop a tennis ball into his lap, brings a smile to his face that is usually grimaced in pain. His moans become chuckles as he throws the ball to watch Riley run after it with pure focus and intensity; sometimes bringing it back for more, sometimes just chewing it for awhile to revel in victory.
The love of a dog is the gift that keeps on giving.