What is it about baby animals that girls, myself included, just die over? Is it maybe the same part of our brain that makes us squeal over babies and their chubby cheeks and tiny fingers? Like a maternal instinct, but peternal. (eh, eh, get it!? get it!? I’m not above pity laughs, obviously.) But really, somewhere in our maternal instinct might be a weakness for all things tiny and cute and in need of our nurture and love. None of this is scientifically founded on evidence, but whatever it is, it seems to be universal. In general, girls, (women, though I hardly think of myself as a “woman”, even if I AM 25 years old) seem to have a sweet spot for little baby animals, especially puppies.
Puppies are the greatest thing in the world. Don’t get me wrong, other baby animals are adorable and sweet and all sorts of cuteness. But a puppy? They just make everything better… they just make you smile!
And they love you in return. In fact, they love us just as (or maybe even more than) we love them, because they love unconditionally. Dogs are the only animals that consider us part of their “pack”; we are actually one of them. They love us as one of their own, without judgments or expectations.
In general, puppies make me really emotional. They are extremely cute, extremely small, and full of love. It makes me think of the scene from New Girl where Jess is interviewing for the adult teaching position and her interviewer shows her a picture of her puppy sitting in a cup and she completely breaks down. Through her sobbing tears she says “puppy…in…a….cup….”. It’s one of my favorite moments of the series. Mostly because this is me. I feel like this is a pretty normal response though… RIGHT!? I’m not sure what it is, but puppies just make me really emotional.
Don’t even get me started on those stupid SPCA commercials with “Arms of the Angels” playing the background…I weep every time. In fact, I’m getting teary just thinking about it, which is why I can’t go into that. I know you know what I’m talking about.
But honestly, how could you be sad holding a puppy?! There’s no way. Because they just LOVE you. They look at you and don’t see any of your flaws, they’ll never betray you, and they will always protect you. I have miniature dachshunds and nothing makes me feel better after a horrible day than to come home and cuddle with them. I can’t prove why, they just do.
Countless studies have been done that show a correlation between dogs and human happiness, some even show an improvement in physical health (lowered blood pressure, reduced stress hormones, the release of feel-good chemicals in your brain) and mental health (less depression, relief of tension, and a proven mood booster). I’m a Psych major and in one of my classes, my professor was teaching us about this same idea; she has her PhD in Clinical Psychology and wrote her dissertation on the affects that animals have on their human owners. We learned about lots of studies that showed a relationship between better health in people that owned pets, and some studies that even showed temporary health benefits of playing with dogs for a short period of time.
The idea is that dogs provide love, companionship, activity and social interaction. They also draw on our “touch” sensation. As human beings, we need to touch and be touched, it’s a way that we comfort, soothe, establish intimacy (hugs people!) and communicate how we feel. Think of a mother rubbing the back of her sick child as they try to fall asleep or rubbing the arm of your best friend who’s having a tough day or hugging your loved ones when you’re happy to see them. “Touch” is a very important sensation for us. Dogs provide the same thing; studies show that you feel better when petting your dog or cat because it’s soothing, and that small action can also lower your heart rate too!
There are many great organizations that have taken these ideas and put them into action. Many charities and companies have been created that bring dogs to cancer patients to boost their mood. These “animal-assistant therapy programs” have been popping up all over. I read an article published on the Northwestern University’s Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center’s website about the Canine Therapy Corps in Chicago and almost cried. And then I watched the video…and actually cried. This organization brings in golden retrievers to the oncology floor of the hospital to visit with the patients.
Watching those pups bring so much joy to the cancer patients is truly moving, you can’t help but smile as you watch. Just a few minutes with the dogs brighten their day and it’s something they have to look forward to throughout the week. And it’s not just the patients; it makes the staff happy too! And that’s the main point… dogs make you happy. You can throw data and evidence of a thousand different studies around but none of that compares to experiencing it for yourself.
With all the unhappiness in the world right now, I think this is exactly what we need. This may sound strange, but on days that I’m having a really tough day and I’m not at home with my dogs, I Google pictures of puppies and it makes me feel better. I don’t even have to see them in real life; a picture is all it takes to put a smile on my face. Because puppies are the best. They are real superheroes, whose entire life is focused on making us happy and showing us their love. Puppies really could save the world, one happy person at a time.
Ashley Anglesey is a sassy brown-eyed brunette who should’ve been born as a red head, but most of the time tries to play it off with died locks. She’s British at heart and is convinced that her and Jane Austen would “totally be BFF’s” if she were still alive. She thinks she’s witty and is pretty sure that if her life were a TV show, she’d be a cross between Lorelei Gilmore and Jessica Day, though she wishes she were a little more like Olivia Pope. And while she’s a Californian to her core, she is constantly dreaming about life in England, watching the real football and walking the streets of London in a Burberry trench. You can follow her blog.