Sponsored Post by Bupa.
One of the things I’ve noticed about growing older is that it’s increasingly easy to become hermit-like.
Sometimes this is quite appealing, given that I’m an introvert by nature, but on the other hand I know that too much hermit-like status is definitely not good for my health.
You know: Act, Belong, Commit and all that? It’s much healthier to stay in the world rather than become a recluse because otherwise we are crooking our little finger and welcoming in loneliness, we’re bidding goodbye to routine and responsibility, we’ll most likely avoid strenuous exercise, and it’s all too easy to retreat into ourselves and stop investing in life.
Hmm, not a very healthy way to age is it?
Trouble is as we grow older the touch points for connectivity become less. There’s no more standing at the school gate having a chat with whoever’s there for instance. Perhaps because of various aches and pains we start to pull back from sporting activities. Perhaps (heaven forbid) our parents and older friends start passing away and we begin to feel sad and lonely.
In short, we have to make more of an effort than ever before to remain social and involved with the rough and tumble of life.
What to do?
One of the best things you can do I reckon is to beg, borrow or buy a dog.
As a serial dog owner, but sadly without one right now, I can vouch for a number of benefits that go with owning a pooch, and dog ownership is big on my list for the near future to prevent me becoming a stout, bad tempered old hermit with a broomstick.
Your daily dozen
One of the best things about dog ownership is increased exercise, because even little dogs need and enjoy a walk around the block.
So that’s going to mean less lazing on a couch or tucked up in bed with a box of chocolates reading the Sunday papers, and entail more getting out and pounding the streets or striding out on an early morning jaunt to the park. It’s not easy to say no to a dog who’s keen to get out of the house, so actually there’s a fair amount of pressure to take some daily exercise on a regular basis.
Our Charlie used to like kayaking on the river, see above! It was always more fun going out with him and watching him jump off for a swim too.
You’ll never be lonely
Dogs aren’t aloof and independent like cats. They’re in your face, demanding your attention and they become constant companions with their own personalities which will often, I reckon, after a while begin to reflect your own, especially if you spend a lot of time training them and talking to them.
Mini me with a bark 😉
Dogs add routine and responsibility
Okay, so I think one of the nice things about getting older is that we are able to kiss strict routines goodbye. The sort of killing routines associated with long working hours and a busy family life where it’s hard to find time to breathe.
However, in the total absence of routine it’s sometimes tricky to find touch points to keep days, weeks and even months in check. If you have a dog you have to walk them, feed them, train them, and care for them. So you immediately have manageable amounts of routine and responsibility built into your days.
Our son’s dog Rhino below is such a character, and has been trained really well, but I’m not sure how proficient he is yet at playing guitar 😉
Owning a dog gives you something else other than yourself and your own concerns to worry about. This might seem counter-intuitive, but having a dog takes you beyond yourself and your own worries. That smiling face, the unconditional love they give, the wagging tail every time you walk in the front door, the constant companionship – it’s a given that they are small furry stress-busters.
Dogs can reduce social isolation
Owning a dog helps you make new friends and can introduce you to new interests. For instance, in the park or on the beach … other dog owners will most likely say ‘Hello’, and possibly start up a conversation. People will come up to you and pat your dog (especially if it’s cute). You might have to say ‘Sorry’ to people when Buster jumps up at them or bounds onto their beach towel – whatever way, you will have to connect with other people.
On a more social level you might decide to go dog walking with others, or enter your pooch into dog shows and doggie competitions at charity events. You will definitely have to go and converse with your local vet at some stages in your dog’s life. You could perhaps do good and arrange to take your (friendly) dog into old people’s homes or hospitals (after talking with the correct people) and so help others feel more cheerful.
The sad truth is that very often with age comes vulnerability. Now good on you if you’re into Martial Arts or if you have an Arnold Schwarzenneger type minder, but if you don’t, a dog could very well provide you with an extra level of protection both when you’re out for your daily exercise or when you’re relaxing at home.
Even small dogs can have a big bark, and a would-be intruder may think twice about breaking and entering even if your ankle biter is a Jack Russell rather than a Pittbull terrier.
Staying useful and being needed
One of the things my Mum said to me quite a few years ago when I thought I was being a pest in asking her to do something for me was: “No, I don’t mind at all. It’s so lovely to still be needed.”
And I get that now that my own children have left home. As we get older we’re needed less and less by our families and by society at large.
Having to take care of a dog makes you useful and of value, because Rover cannot take care of himself.
Saying Yes to Life
I think it’s easy to get depressed as we get older. You know, one by one things we took for granted when we were younger seem to get taken away from us, and being over 50 is so different to being 30-something when we were so busy building our lives, families and careers – so it’s important to invest in life in other ways.
Having a dog means that you are committing to responsible ownership, looking after another living being for a number of years and it could be a very positive influence in keeping you happy.
So, if anyone’s listening … if anyone cares … make mine a cocker spaniel please!
This post was sponsored by Bupa. You can find out more about their #CaringForOurGreats initiative by visiting The Blue Room
If you’d like to win a copy of Matt Moran’s latest cook book Matt’s Kitchen Garden, which features recipes that are Chiswick style with a focus on seasonality and fresh Australian produce then all you have to do is write a comment below, and tell me why you think owning a dog is good for you. Closing date is 31st November 2015. Entry is open to people with an Australian address. For full conditions of entry please check out the Giveaway Conditions
Update: 8 December 2015. This giveaway is now closed and Suzanne has been selected as the winner. Should she not respond within 7 days, another winner will be chosen.
Hi Jo, I just found your blog and this post caught my eye, we have 3 big dogs, one chocolate lab and 2 mixed breed rescues and they are a big part of our lives. As you said, they need exercise but now that’s my husband’s job because he’s retired and I did it for 10 years at least. When you’re dog owners, you become ‘parents’ and as such need to protect them, feed them, take care of them when they’re sick, entertain them and more. It’s a full time job but I can’t imagine my life without a dog. The unconditional love you get in return is wonderful. When we go on vacation, they go to the babysitter the day before we leave and I tell you, it’s way too quiet in the house, and we can even walk around without having to zigzag around them LOL
Hi Lise, loved this story! Makes me want a dog again! Thanks for popping by 🙂
Janet aka Middle Aged Mama
Dogs are okay but kitties are better 😉
Haha! But can they wag their tails?
Jan at retiringNotshy!
We would so love to have a dog but we travel a lot both domestically and internationally so have decided it just would not be fair to the dog. Luckily we are able to borrow one occasionally and we just love him to death. Being woken up every morning with that joyful and excited face is a great way to start the day and yes it is amazing how many people want to talk to you about your dog.
You’re right Jan – you suddenly become the person the world (and his dog!) wants to talk to! Like you we are travelling a bit too much to have a dog just right now, but we love to borrow … and a cocker spaniel is on the cards one of these days 🙂
I totally agree. Our gorgeous Benji is the best company ever, & has been ever since the day we picked him out at the Dog Pound 11 years ago. We wanted a companion for my Mum, who had terminal cancer, and a pet for my son, Sam, who was 6 yrs old. Benji was 3 months old, a lovely mix of Fox Terrier/Blue heeler/Beagle/corgi – his mother clearly shared her favours, lol! That little puppy seemed to know when he was with Mum to be quiet and gentle – he never left her side-but then when with me & Sam he ran & jumped and bounced and did all the usual puppy things.
When Mum passed away, many’s the time I cried into Benji’s fur, he always understood.
Sam’s leaving home for Uni next year, and he’s already told me he doesn’t know he’s going to get by without having Benji around. “Oh, and you too, Mum, of course.” as an afterthought!.
I myself know its going to be a hard transition, but Benji will be my company, he’s always ecstatic to see me when I get home from work, and you’re right, having to get out and take him for his walk makes me leave the house when sometimes I don’t want to. I know that with Benji at my side, I’ll be ok.
First of all so very sad to hear about your Mum passing away, Linda, but how lovely that Benji is always there for you. Oh that’s funny about Benji’s mother ‘clearly sharing her favours!” He sounds a gorgeous dog and how wonderful that he was quiet and gentle when he was with your Mum when she was ill, and all bouncy with your son. I hope you cope well with the transition of Sam leaving home for Uni, it’s hard at first, like losing a limb for me … but we find out own stride again.
My cocker spaniel/muse is curled up beside me, her head on the laptop as I type…
Ahh how lovely Jo. I’m just a little green around the gills!
Hi Jo I couldn’t agree more with your article and advice! As a sufferer of chronic anxiety and depression I know all too well the numerous benefits that a dog has to help manage anxiety and depression. In fact I just started my own blog to help others and give me purpose on just this topic. I would love you to read it and tell me what you think. The link is Thelifestylist.com.au under mental health menu tab. I also offer healthy recipes other mental health tips food management and beauty to feel as healthy on the inside and feel good on the outside thanks in advance suzanne (suzanne the lifestylist)
Hi Suzanne, thanks for popping by and giving us the heads up about how owning a dog can help people manage anxiety and depression. Thanks also for information about your blog. Will have a look-see 🙂
My 3yr old Shi-tzu, Zoe is an absolute treasure! Very obedient and quiet, unless someone comes to the door. Loves playing with our cat who is similar size. Hypo-allergenic or no allergy problems, very friendly except, sadly, with children. She hasn’t had a lot to do with them and think she’s more afraid of them than anything! She makes me laugh every day, and absolutely suited to a small apartment! Oh and always first onto the bed at night, not under duvet but likes to be touching me!
Ahh, Zoe sounds absolutely gorgeous, Ngaire! Si-tzus are such cute and entertaining dogs – as you say, great for small apartments too.
I’m ready to get another dog after my wonderful, old Simon died. I just can’t decide what kind, although I’d love a small, fluffy rescue dog. Its a tall order, but I’m looking.
Sad to hear about Simon’s demise. It takes a long time to get over losing a dog, doesn’t it Laurie. Glad to hear you’re ready to move on and have fun looking 🙂
I am so tempted to have a dog, my husband wouldn’t appreciate it though. But never say never X
Hope you can bend his arm to your way of thinking soon, Rae.
Love. Who gives us unconditional love? Our parents… yes. Our partners… yes. But with humans there are unwritten and unvoiced conditions aren’t there. With dogs there are no conditions. The fact that you feed them, pay their vet bills, walk them and play with them is a mute point. They love you full stop! and that is the most important thing in the world for anyone’s happiness.
That is so so true Jan! Unconditional love is a very powerful force.
I couldn’t agree more Jo! I find myself being a bit reclusive at times and sometimes can’t be bothered leaving the house. However, like you say having a dog makes you go for a walk each day and they are such great company. When we travelled around Australia our Labrador dog was with us all the way and she actually gave us a third ‘person’ to talk to when we weren’t talking to one another!
Haha, Kathy that’s funny! I can imagine we’d be the same 😉 How great that you took your Labrador with you around Australia … would love to hear more about how easy or difficult that was with regard to places to stay and how you managed.
Life Images by Jill
Hi Jo, I’ve never been a dog lover, though we were dog owners when our children were younger. After he passed away, and life took other paths we haven’t taken on the responsibility of another dog. But I can certainly see the benefits as I read through your post many of your comments resonate with me so much today. Perhaps a dog would add a happy bounce of life back into my at home world that is threatening to engulf me. I like cocker spaniels too!
Hi Jill, so glad this post has made you perhaps look at owning a dog again. I think they can definitely take our minds off the world at large and our own problems too … and yes, even put bounce back into our lives. I hope you are okay?