Meet Sasha, my childhood dog. My world and her world were swirled together like different shades of paint for most of my junior years. Together we achieved orange and we were never going back to red and yellow. We slept side by side, adventured together and supported each other through the good times and the bad. But more than anything – we ruffing loved each other.
The bond I had with Sash was so much more than symbiosis. Sharks and remora fish have a symbiotic relationship – the remora eats parasites off the shark’s skin and in return, the shark kindly offers his left overs. That’s not love; that deal is entirely transactional. Sasha and I, by contrast, adored each other!
Studies have shown that when humans cuddle dogs, their bodies release oxytocin, a hormone associated with not only happiness, but bonding and affection as well. The connection we have with dogs is especially significant for those who tend to be more isolated. That was particularly true for me when my parents pulled me out of primary school having decided we were going to circumnavigate Australia on a yacht. Lonely was an understatement but thankfully they let me bring my dog along. Not surprisingly, my furry friend soon became my everything.
Apart from their wagging tails and adoring eyes, dogs give us a sense of purpose and force us to get on with it! Even if we are not feeling well emotionally or physically, our dogs still demand we get up, love them, feed them and walk them. I believe that it’s this need to nurture and care for something more vulnerable than us that that often moves us out of our sadness.
Dogs have been proven to reduce our stress and alleviate anxiety. But even more importantly, they encourage us to be present in the moment. Dogs live life in the now and with this, they teach us how to be happy.
What’s more, dogs don’t just fill our heart – they actually make it stronger. Studies show that having a canine companion is linked to lower blood pressure, reduced cholesterol and decreased triglyceride levels, which all contribute to improving our cardiovascular health.
As a veterinarian, everyone tells me they have THE best dog – and I think every one of them is absolutely right. Sasha passed away from mitral valve disease 13 years ago and still to this day I think about her and our special connection. She was THE best dog and the reason I endured the harrowing five years of vet school. It was with great delight that I recently stumbled across this photo of her and I, taken about twenty-five years ago.
This cuddly canine will always have a special place in my heart. And you know what – I think I’m going to have to dedicate my Dog Book to her.