Canine therapy

Adopt a dog and get acquainted with the best version of yourself

Anjana Rajbhandary with Sloane, a Labrador Retriever mix she adopted recently. Photo courtesy of: ANJANA RAJBHANDARY

Last year, when I was still struggling with pandemic-induced anxiety, my best friend Shailu suggested I get a puppy. Shailu herself is mom to two golden doodles and told me how having pets has made her much happier.

According to Psychology Today, dogs help people be present in the moment. When you are playing with or walking your dog, that is what you are doing because you need to pay attention to your puppy, preventing your mind from wandering into the senseless territory.

Spending time with a dog can significantly lessen one’s negative emotions because they make you feel loved. Plenty of studies have proven that canines make people happier. But how do you make the right choice when choosing a dog?

“Do your research! Don’t get a dog just because you like the way they look,” says Serena, an animal care worker with over 20 years of experience. She strongly recommends opting for a dog that best fits your lifestyle which dictates whether you can give the dog the level of activity it needs.

“If you are an active person, get a high-energy dog but if you are a homebody, better to choose the one that needs fewer walks and is fine lounging around with you,” she adds.

Read also: Adventures of a Kathmandu street dog, Nepali Times

Pranav R. Joshi, a veterinarian with 14 years of experience strongly recommends adopting a dog for mental health benefits. “Dogs radiate an energy towards people that automatically helps because no matter how tired you are, even if it is for 5 minutes, it can positively impact your mental health,” he explains.

When you come home tired from work and do not feel like talking to anyone, dogs act as a bridge. They bring families together because even if they don’t talk to each other, they will talk about their furry friends. Experts also encourage teaching children to take care of pets to instill a sense of responsibility from a young age.

Having a dog also makes it easier to start conversations, they give you something to talk about. And even if conversations start with dogs, it encourages people to bond with others over time. Studies have found that single men are more likely to meet women if they have a dog with them. So, your little best friend might even help you find love.

“Dogs help people become more sociable and improve relationships,” adds Joshi who has been running Vet for your Pet clinic since 2009.

Andréa Schneider started Drea’s Dogsitting LLC in 2019 because of her love for animals, she wanted to spend every day doing it. “Socialising your puppy from an early age is an investment in happiness and peace for years to come,” she says, adding that the business has allowed her to know more people from her community. Such a practice also helps shape the dog’s personality from an early age.

Read also: Angel meets an angel, Sonia Awale

Another animal lover is Lisa Huey who has been volunteering for the non-profit Love of Labs since 2020 and has fostered five dogs since. Fostering and adopting older dogs is not common in Nepal, but she is a strong advocate and as such is against leaving pets outside to sleep or keeping them in a cage for too long.

“How you treat the dog is how the dog will age,” she says. “Dogs age like people. We have to feed them a healthy diet and keep them active, and as they get older, they need supplements for their health issues. You should treat your dog like a family member.”

Dogs are intelligent beings but training them can be time-consuming as they need time and practice to learn and retain commands. Imagine someone speaking to you in a foreign language you do not understand. It is the same for dogs so one must be patient.

We adopted Sloane, a Labrador Retriever mix, and couldn’t be happier. Having her has immensely helped my mental and physical health since we need to give her plenty of exercise to keep her healthy, labs tend to put weight on quickly. She is good with strangers, very playful, and has high energy, so she keeps us plenty busy.

People with pets, in particular dogs, are happier because they provide companionship as well as a sense of security. They are a great addition to your life, they add structure to your day. They make you more responsible because they depend on you for their welfare.

In short, dogs make you a better person or bring about your best version.

Read more: Microchipping Nepal's dogs, Aria Parasai

Anjana Rajbhandary writes this fortnightly Nepali Times column Life Time about mental health, physical health and socio-cultural issues.

Anjana Rajbhandary