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The Social Benefits of Dog Ownership

Home > Everywhere > Animals and Wildlife | Dog Friendly | Pets
by Beth McGowan (subscribe)
I am a British traveller with a love for writing, photography, and fun! Hoping to share some of my experiences with the world. :)
Published September 25th 2013
Why dogs are man's best friend
There are many benefits if having a dog, companionship, loyalty, love etc, but who would have thought about the social side?

I have been a dog owner for most of my life, we've always had a family dog but the social side of having a dog still amazes me!
The last dog I had was absolutely gorgeous. He was my 16th birthday present and I took him everywhere.

I went travelling for 3 years leaving my beloved in good care of my parents. To be honest, I probably missed him more than everyone else, and only a dog person would understand that. My mother set an Instagram account for him, as a joke, so I could see what he was up to while I was so far away. To my amazement he got over 200 followers, more than I could ever dream of getting. Dogs and their owners from all around the world, followed, liked and commented on his pictures. I was regularly in touch with a dog in California, Sweden and Australia. Weird, right? But surprisingly interesting. Even the idea of pretending to be my dog and commenting on 'my' status - ie. 'I just love it when mommy takes me for a morning run' - was fairly addictive, and really not too much different than the 'my baby' updates blocking up my Facebook, except I didn't even choose to follow your baby. So even our pets are on social media now! #instapet #instadog #dogsofinstagram
Jeremy
Jeremy Instadog

A week after returning home to my lovely dog, he sadly passed away. Devastated was an understatement. Yet he managed to surprise me again.

All his Instagram followers posted memorials and said some lovely things as these people, dog people, had also been through the same feeling. Unlike some of my friends who couldn't understand why I was so upset over a dog. It's just a dog? Not only did his Instagram followers have kind words, friends from school and college that I hadn't spoken too or even thought about in years messaged me on Facebook apologising for my loss and how he was part of their growing up and what a wonderful dog he was.

I had friends from my travels message me saying how upset they were by my news. Finally, my family. My parents had broken up when I was young and there were a good few years neither side of my family talked to each other. My dog had been to my dad's house with me and was loved by their family, and weirdly enough, bought my family back together. When my mother and her husband went on holiday while I was away, they'd drop my dog to my dad's house for them to look after. This happened more and more until texts exchanged from my mother to my dad's wife changed from 'How's the dog doing? We'll pick him up tomorrow.' to 'Do you fancy going out for a drink as a thank you for looking after him?' That dog bought two sides of my family together while I was gone, waited for me to come back, and then put me in contact with friends I'd lost at home. Amazing….



After a while and much thought, my mother decided to get a labradoodle. All these poodle crosses seem to be all the rage at the minute. They don't shed too much and more of a selling point to us was the unlikelihood of them not inheriting any pedigree health problems which my cavalier had.

Now he's cute, don't get me wrong, not as cute as my previous dog by far. He's got a weird shaggy beard, wiry fur, long eyelashes and huge paws. He's gangly, has no special awareness and expressions include depressed or crazy.

However, somehow he's melted my boyfriend's heart - who didn't 'do' dogs! Now he is asking it is okay if we take him to bed with us….hmmmmm…

I was used to getting attention from my gorgeous cavalier who sat like a human on the train, but this labradoodle is all dog! I've gone from walking a well behaved dog who even off the lead barely moved from my side, to chasing crazily after a puppy who is running full speed ahead, legs everywhere with no idea how to stop.

To my amazement, he still gets attention. Now, where I live, isn't the best area so we tend to avoid making eye contact with most people. Plus this is England, not the most sociable of nationalities. Firstly, I walk past a lad who is about 15, shirt off on his bike riding around the children's area of the park shouting abuse at old people and announcing what he'd like to do to the 'MILFS' playing with their children. I put my head down, pull the dog close to me on the lead and walk past. Damn, he had noticed me. 'Nice dog!' he shouted and got off his bike to come and stroke him…What just happened?

I'm now in the area of the park where I can let him off his lead. I do so in hope he doesn't spot another dog too soon as he still has a tendency to bolt for them in all his gangly glory. S**t! He's spotted one, an old one, with an even older owner. And he's off! I run after him, apologising and making excuses for his crazy puppy behaviour. To my surprise she loved him, even though her dog wasn't too impressed, she was, we chatted about training puppies, had a laugh and went on, thankfully my pup following me when I called him.

Next, a family, child in push chair, mom and dad holding hands and a cocker spaniel on a lead. Now my pup loves dogs on a lead, he can harass them without any chance of them chasing him or bullying him back. Brilliant. Now this nice family portrait now has a crazy eyed, soggy bearded, legs longer than he knows what to do with, ears in the wind, labradoodle running straight for them with no idea how to stop. Brilliant. But again, they thought he was hilarious, joking with me about how it was like a scene from 'Marley and Me' their child hysterical with laughter as he bounded up the push chair and licked his face. So after prying my dogs mouth from their dogs ear like a chew toy, we waved and thanked each other for letting our dogs get to know each other.

The labradoodle already had his next victim in sight. Two girls, we like to call over here, chavs, tracksuit bottoms, gelled back hair in a untidy ponytail, more swear words in their everyday vocabulary than I knew existed. Like the boy on the bike, I willed my pup not to be interested but there appeared a staffordshire bull terrier. Thankfully my labradoodle, shockingly, had sense not to bound on this dog as it had more muscle in its nose than the whole of my dog had put together. He slowly approached them, me not far behind but this stocky looking dog was gorgeous. She elegantly (as elegantly as a dog built like a brick s**t house could) frolicked up to him and they played and licked and jumped around. The girls, who normally would be the type (hope I'm not stereotyping too much here) I would hide from in school (in case they flushed my head down the toilet or waited after-school to beat me up) said 'Aw, isn't he f-ing gorgeous!' They patted him, joked about him being their dog's boyfriend, asked questions like 'how old is he?' 'what's his name?' and we stood for 5 minutes or so talking and exchanging dog stories.

As I put my pup back on his lead to walk around the lake, everyone who didn't have a dog would walk past, head down, no eye contact in typically British fashion, definitely Birmingham fashion but those who had dogs would stop, allow our dogs to greet, sniff each other and check each other out while we made polite conversation about them. This happened with an old man and his Shih Tzu, a middle aged woman and her rather over weight pug and a rather good looking American guy with his…tiny fluffy girly dog who he kept telling me was a boy.

When I got home, I realised what a weird experience that was. If I had no dog, I would not have spoken to any of those people .In fact probably would have thought them down right weird if they just stopped to talk to me for no reason. Even though this time nothing came out of it, it just opened a lot of opportunities for friends and possibly even dates. People who I wouldn't have even looked up at, came into my life for just a brief second. Strange how people are, in a world where everyone is unsociable in real life but extremely sociable on the internet, dogs still connect us.

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Why? Because dogs are great
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