Merriam-Webster’s dictionary definition for dog is:
dog – a highly variable domestic mammal (Canis familiaris) closely related to the gray wolf.
A Brief History
You can trace the relationship between dog and man several thousand years. Though the actual date is highly debated, the fact remains that this relationship started long ago and continues in a very big way today.
Human-canine bonding is the relationship between dogs and humans. Some scientists say this bond began some 14,000 years ago, but as I stated above we really aren’t for sure. One thing is sure though, this bond is strong and unmistakable.
I, like many of my fellow Americans, consider myself blessed to have experienced several great relationships with dogs in my life. The American Pet Products Association’s (APPA) 2019-2020 survey says I am not alone. It suggests that 63.4 million households have a dog for a pet. That’s a lot of tail wagging going on!
How Dogs Stole Our Hearts
Research has shown that when our canine pals stare into our eyes, they activate the same hormonal response that bonds us to human infants. Brian Hare, an expert on canine cognition at Duke University, suggests that dogs have hijacked the human bonding system. I believe that to be true as I have experienced those moments of bonding with my dogs over the years.
This bond brings multiple benefits to having a relationship with our “fur babies”. Studies have shown that dog ownership improves one’s physical and mental health. It can help reduce stress, lower blood pressure, help to prevent heart disease, even help fight depression. This in turn helps lower one’s healthcare costs through more physical activity than non-dog owners. Now that is a great reason to own a dog, it makes you healthier.
How Devoted Are Americans To Their Pets?
Add up the 2018 annual budgets of the US Department of Commerce, Interior, and Labor and Transporation. Then add in NASA’s estimated spending for that year and the number still won’t match what pet owners dropped on their pets that year. Americans spent a record-breaking $72.56 billion on their pets in 2018 with the majority of that spent on dogs.
These figures cover money spent on food, supplies, over-the-counter medications, vet care, live-animal purchases and other services. We are spending the biggest portion of those dollars on dog food ($29.07 billion), with premium food being the driving factor ahead of generic and natural food.
Although food is super important, I can tell you from personal experience that spending money on “supplies” for our dogs is high on our priority list. “Supplies” such as tennis balls, squeaky toys, pull toys, and most importantly, dog treats are included in the $15.11 billion spent in 2018. The joy these toys and treats bring to both dogs and owners help in creating that everlasting bond that seems to be unbreakable. Maybe that’s why we don’t mind spending so much on them, it brings us endless joy!
Bringing Joy And Service To Those With Disabilities
One of the most inspiring things I have seen dogs do is be a service animal for those with disabilities. “Disability” is defined by the ADA as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity. A service dog is trained to take a specific action whenever required, to assist a person with their disability. Guide dogs help blind and visually impaired, hearing dogs help alert deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals to important sounds. Mobility dogs assist individuals who use wheelchairs, walking devices or those with balance issues. Medical alert dogs signal the onset of medical issues such as seizures or low blood sugar among other issues.
4 Paws for Ability is one of many non-profits that provide service dogs to those in need of assistance. They focus on enriching the lives of children and veterans with disabilities by placing quality, task-trained service dogs with them. The mission and vision of “4 Paws” are very precise and clear. Striving to be the leader in providing quality service dogs for children and veterans regardless of their disability.
My niece, Whitney Runyon, has a heart for those with disabilities and became a volunteer puppy trainer for this organization while attending college at the University of Kentucky. Through her experience with “4 Paws”, our family has seen how amazing these dogs are in caring for the people they are placed with. The human-canine bond that is created between the service dog and their forever person is a special one that until witnessed cannot be described effectively.
They Just Want To Be There
Measuring the impact dogs have on humans can’t be easily done. I know through my own experiences there have been times the only one that would listen to me without judgement was my dog. All dogs have a deep desire to be wanted and to serve their humans…yes I said “their humans”. You see we always think of dogs as ours but more importantly they see us as theirs. This self-less spirit is what gives them the drive to serve their forever person or family.
I’m pretty sure that most Americans really don’t keep track of what they spend on their dogs. I would say it’s because that’s a relationship that is priceless!
One way to do good for others is to donate your money or time to help those in need of a service dog. There are many organizations looking for help. Search for your favorite or go to 4pawsforability.org to make a difference today.