Whole Dog Journal's Blog November 21, 2011

The Healing Power of Dogs (and cats)

Posted at 02:39PM - Comments: (7)

I woke up with a headache on Sunday morning – a migraine. I get a couple per month; they are not completely unpredictable. But I had planned one getting a lot of things done, so I was a bit stubborn. I got dressed, took some medication, and tried to start the day anyway. I fed the dogs, cats, and chickens, had a little breakfast . . . and then had to go back to bed.

After a couple of hours, I tried again. Ugh. Head still hurt. I took another prescription medication, drank some water, put my sunglasses on, and wandered around the house. I made some calls; I’m a great listener when I have a headache, very sympathetic!

In the early afternoon, I gave up. I found my way to the couch with a nice down blanket – and that’s when the “pet therapy” started. First Otto found his way to my side (he was outdoors, but he knows how to open the sliding glass door in the kitchen). He put his chin on my shoulder, stared into my face with his big, bright, mischievous eyes, wagging his tail – but when he got little response, he sighed deeply and just curled up on the rug next to the couch. Then my niece’s Chihuahua found the open door and a blanketed person (me) on the couch. Score! He hopped up and found a cozy spot on my tummy. At some point, my two young cats joined us, one on my chest right under my chin, and the other down between my knees, and they added purring to the mix.

It had been raining in the morning, but by late afternoon, the sky had cleared; I could tell it was bright and sunny (though chilly) outside – but all the animals stayed put. I did breathing exercises and kept visualizing the dispersal of the pain in my head; I focused on the furry forms all around me and silently thanked them for their company and warmth. My husband came into the room a couple of times, but saw that I was being taken care of and silently withdrew.

The headache never quite went completely away, though its intensity faded as the evening wore on. It was so much easier to bear with my companions arrayed on every side of me, and I’m extra grateful to them today.

Comments (7)

I believe God gave us dogs so we could have some small idea about what He means when He talks about Unconditional Love. I have a little Jack Russell Terrier who is a rescue. The family who had her was going to take her to the pound because she was so out of control and aggressive. She would run away and never come back. They had to go 18 miles to pick her up once. I met her and fell in love. She is now my service dog. I get comments all the time about how calm she is and people think she is the best looking dog they have ever seen. They cannot believe she is a Jack Russell because she is so calm. She will lie at my feet in the doctor's offices and ride on the floor of the go-carts in the grocery stores. When she is not working she is my entertainment! Bringing me her toys to throw so she can chase them. If she gets out... oh yes she will run up and down the street and taunt all the other dogs "I am out and your not!" But, she always comes back to the house. Always. God gave me this little dog because He knew that I would need a reason to get up in the morning and force myself to get around. It has been challenging lately and I am so grateful for my little darling! She is one special girl!

Posted by: Unknown | November 24, 2011 9:12 AM    Report this comment

I turned 50 this year and am revelling in the fact that I have reached the stage in my life where it's time to start to appreciate some of life's simpler pastimes, and one of those delightfully simple pleasures is curling up on the couch with my beautiful Hounds Dexter and Lilith. It's remarkably relaxing, particularly when faced with the stresses of health issues, to take some time out from the every day humdrum of our lives and get in touch with our inner canine or feline for that matter and just "chill" for a bit. I find it rejuvenating, and it's a lovely bonding experience too! If it's one thing my canine companions have impressed upon me it's enlightening to think "DOG"! Dogs really know how to enjoy life to the fullest and this is a wonderful trait to possess and I thank them wholeheartedly for sharing this with me, because I believe it makes me a better human being. Janine Whitelaw VIC AUST

Posted by: luvsahound | November 23, 2011 12:53 AM    Report this comment

Tip for those with migraines - take Magnesium EVERY DAY. Poof!! You may get a couple a year, but it's better than a couple a week! For THE OTHER SIDE OF REALITY, yesterday I just lost my beautiful rottie girl to Lupus, Wobbler's, Insulinoma, terrible hot spots, hypothyroidism, hypoglycemia, uveitis, and the final insult was a collapsed lung that caused acute respiratory distress. Kaela was almost 14 and after losing my job in August, I spent 24/7 caring for her. All of your stresses were mine. She weighed 86 pounds and could not get up to walk, so she lay on the floor with human sized pee pads underneath her. This once proud girl with the heart of a lion was reduced to a shell of her former self. There were days when I went into the basement and screamed at the top of my lungs - vet bills, anguish, loss of income that I didn't even have, sobbing - all of it and I would welcome all of it back with open arms to be able to stroke her beautiful head and kiss her beautiful eyes again. Please get Magnesium for your headaches and Rhodiola Rosea for the stress - I promise it will help. Get pee pads and be happy you can clean up after him because one day, he won't be there... Peace to you.

Posted by: candymac | November 22, 2011 12:15 PM    Report this comment

I have really bad back problems that required me to have a morphine pain pump implanted as well as arthritis in my knees, hips, hands, back and shoulders. I have to take take pain pills, muscle relaxers, arthritis and other medicationsy at least 3 times a day, every day. I have 4 dogs. 2 adult English Bulldogs ages 3 and 5, a 256 year old Old English Bulldog and a 4 month old Victorian Bulldog puppy. The daily feeding, walks and care of these guys keeps me mobile and out of a wheelchair. Every morning I just want to crawl back in bed due to the stiffness and pain of just getting up,dressed, and walking into the kitchen. But then I see my beautiful babies standing there with their butts wagging, waiting to go outside and eager to start the day. The fact that they depend on me every day to feed them, take each of them for a walk, play with them, brush and bathe them, talk to them, and just to love them, gives me the strength and determination to keep getting up every day. One or two of them lays down with me for a couple of hours in the afternoons and one sleeps with me at night. They are always nearby and eager to give me kisses and all the love anyone could want.

Posted by: Unknown | November 22, 2011 12:09 PM    Report this comment

I too lost my mother about a year ago and when I was mourning, which was a full time low with me spending all my nights awake on the couch and feeling like crap the rest of the time, I had a son who was 5 and very attentive and he took such good care of me, but the animal who comforted me most of the time was my bird who we had just rescued. She was the one who rescued me, I still had an awful time of it but she would get into the crick of my neck and quietly talk to me. And when the pain came back in the past couple of weeks, not only was my bird attentive, the dog that I rescued several months earlier comforted me though the night by sleeping with me on the couch..

Posted by: Unknown | November 22, 2011 11:46 AM    Report this comment

I get migraines too and the stress of having a sick 7 yr. old Maltese does not help. He has Cushings Disease, Thyroid Disease, loosing his hair, horrible skin conditions/bleeding scabs, peeing 20 times a day - cannot go out because of breathing problems too. I have no yard, live in hi-rise in FL. I love your fluffy/furry story, but a very sick dog, that has to be looked after 24/7 (and I have given up some free lance jobs to take care of him) is no fun or comforting for me. He is my only child and I love him so much. Please note: he is not suffering. MY Stress, vet bills, sorrow, loss of income, crying, concern, research, constant cleaning of pee and poop in my house, that is not anything I would wish on anyone.

Posted by: GB | November 22, 2011 9:53 AM    Report this comment

I do not have migraines, thankfully, but my mom died 10 months ago. My husband is sweet and understanding when I mourn, but my four dogs and five cats have empathy beyond human understanding. Plus,the care they require keeps me grounded and focused on the homely needs of creatures in my care.They bring joy and gratitude to me daily.

Posted by: Kitsumama | November 22, 2011 9:42 AM    Report this comment

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