Hard to Resist, They Come With Health Benefits

By Shawn Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief

ForestWe used to have a dog, a black Lab named Sam. We thought he was especially smart, though a bit of a character. He was a wonderful pet and when he died, we were heartbroken.

We didn’t want another dog right away, but it took a while to stop looking for him to greet us each time we walked in. And he wasn’t there to eat the pizza crusts or a Chinese fortune cookie (he’d sit patiently to hear one of us read his fortune to him—and yes, our kids thought we were crazy).

But as my friend Helga said, “The longer you go without a dog, the easier it is not to have one.” Eventually we got used to being in a non-pet household—we could make spur-of-the-moment decisions about going to dinner right from work or away for a weekend without a second thought of “What about Sam?” There was no need to negotiate who would do the morning walk or the evening walk when it was raining or bitterly cold out.

(How many nurses working full time have dogs, I wonder? Given the responsibilities, owning one can be a scheduling challenge, or a budget challenge for those who hire dog walkers. But then, seeing a dog at the end of the day may also be a nice change from seeing patients and colleagues, and research suggests that owning a dog is good for one’s health—petting is associated with lower blood pressure, and of course, long walks are good too.)

We lost Sam over three years ago, and after a while, I figured we might be done with dogs. But then we received an e-mail about Forest, pictured above. He was being released from training as a companion dog from Canine Companions for Independence (CCI). We featured a CCI dog on our July 2011 cover in conjunction with a story on multiple sclerosis. Here’s the link to the photo and cover story. And we actually did a December 2013 feature (log-in required) on family pet visitation as well, along with another cover photo.

Forest is a smart, two-year-old Golden Retriever who was too easily distracted to serve as a companion dog; he is also needy—he needs a lot of reassurance. As a house pet, though, he’s stellar and simply wants to be with someone.

So why did we change our minds? My husband and I decided we liked our house better with a furry family member. Walks were a good time to relax, take a break from work and chores and do some quiet reflection. And while we did take walks without a dog, it was never as frequently as when we had one and it was easy to say, “I’m too busy right now.”

It’s only been three days, but he’s completely won us over.

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2016-11-21T13:05:07+00:00 March 28th, 2014|Nursing|0 Comments
Senior editor/social media strategy, American Journal of Nursing, and editor of AJN Off the Charts.

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