ILLUMINATION
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ILLUMINATION

4 Small Ways in Which Having a Dog Changes You for the Better

Little everyday things that improve your life

Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash

I brought my puppy home a year ago, and I’ve spent some time reflecting on this past year. Raising my pup has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life, and I’ve noticed myself changing a lot through this journey.

There are some major changes that a dog can have on you. These changes have been widely studied and written about. You develop a greater sense of empathy. You are more likely to move and stay fit. You have a lowered risk of certain diseases and can expect to live longer. You can see a noticeable reduction in your anxiety levels.

But this article isn’t about these large scale lifestyle shifts. I want to talk about smaller, everyday behaviours that I’ve observed. These often go unnoticed, but I believe they go a long way in adding up to the larger effects I’ve mentioned above.

You become more aware of every single ingredient in your food

If you’re a pet parent, you know the feeling of wanting to share everything you eat with your pet. And if you have one of those gluttonous large breeds (like mine!), they will likely demand a piece of everything too.

We’ve heard of those puppy-dog eyes that are incredibly hard to resist. It’s a cliche for a reason. The moment I open the fridge, my dog purposefully walks towards me. Then she proceeds to put on a show of model behaviour, sitting and making intense eye contact with me. I always feel guilty if I can’t even give her a tiny bite of what I’m having.

As a result of this, I’ve started being extra aware of the ingredients of everything I eat. I used to be cavalier about putting all kinds of junk in my mouth, but feeding my pup has made me responsible about my own diet.

I’m always wondering if there’s sugar or chocolate or anything else harmful before giving it to her. I’m more likely to eat fruits because I can share them generously with her.

You laugh a lot more

We hear a lot about dogs and their unconditional love and how it reduces our stress levels. The touch of their fur and a sloppy wet lick from them can boost our moods instantly.

But even when they’re not giving you attention, dogs can be a riot. Sometimes I like to sit on my couch and just watch my dog as she rolls around making noises like a buffalo. Or when she’s playing with a basketball and attacking it as if it’s another animal in the wild. Or that evergreen story of chasing her own tail.

Even after a year of watching these things, I continue to go into fits of laughter every time she does them. And every few months, she drops a few of these habits and picks up new ones. She keeps it fresh, and I have never run out of things to laugh at!

You start to notice the ears, noses and tails of every animal you see

Raising a dog makes you realize how much you used to rely on words for communication. When you’re forced to live with and train a creature that cannot use words, you eventually start picking up other ways of understanding them.

With dogs, their eyes, ears and tail are always telling you something. The eyes communicate mischief, yearning, contentment and so much more. You can look to the ears to tell if she’s social, determined or alert. And I know whether she’s feeling confident, threatened, or scared by just looking at the position of her tail.

While she’s walking, her gait and body language always communicate her current state of mind. And when she whines, I know whether she needs to pee, or if she’s just faking crocodile tears because she wants attention.

It’s like learning a whole new language. And it becomes part of your natural way of observing things. Now, I notice all these things about the neighbour’s cat. I recently went to the zoo and I was tickled by the lazy body language of a big black bear that was taking an afternoon nap.

You develop an infinite capacity to care about another being’s poop

I always knew that getting a dog would mean having to handle poop every day. I had written it off as another chore like doing the dishes or the laundry.

But I can’t believe the level of interest I seem to have in her poop. I’ve never even found my own poop this interesting.

I’m always looking to see if the consistency is normal. I automatically check to see if the quantity is more or less than usual.

Every now and then she chews up random crap on our walks. I often examine her poop to get the mental peace that it’s out of her system.

Plus, it’s a different shape every day. I didn’t know that would interest me.

Basically, seeing a healthy load of poop daily feels like I’m tracking a metric that indicates my success as a parent. I know it sounds crazy, but I’ve heard this from other pet parents as well!

At the end of the day, I think I am becoming more mindful on the whole. I am glad to be going through these changes because it is helping me stay in the present and be more tuned into the little everyday wins.

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Aditi Balaji

Aditi Balaji

Writing about relationships. feminism and books. I’m an introvert, a fantasy/sci-fi nerd, and a dog mom.

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