Mothers have their special day in May; fathers have their special day in June. Grandparents have their special day in September, and dogs have their special day this month! August is known for the Dog Days of Summer – often hot, and many times muggy – but it’s not just weather which brings out a special recognition. Dogs around the country have their own special day in August. Each August 26 since 2004 organizations and individuals around the country have celebrated National Dog Day.
Started by author and pet lifestyle expert Colleen Paige, National Dog Day was first developed to honor the search and rescue dogs of September 11th. Ms. Paige then turned her attention to the millions of dogs in need of loving, forever homes, and expanded her mission to include encouragement of pet adoption. (see the National Dog Day website: http://www.nationaldogday.com/).
We, too, can celebrate dogs in both a community way and a personal way. Volunteering at the local shelter is a great way to honor National Dog Day, as a family, group, or individual: walking dogs, playing with cats, helping to clean up the area around the shelter, even taking a group of Scouts or other people for a “handyman project” at the facility. In a personal way, do something extra special for and/or with your beloved pet: take a pet-friendly vacation; buy a pet first aid kit; hire a pet photographer to capture a “family portrait;” microchip your dog for its safe return should it become lost. There are numerous ways to celebrate the special dog in your life!
Today, two new Chicken Soup for the Soul books about pets are released: one about dogs, the other about cats. These books particularly advocate the adoption of pets, with a portion of sale proceeds going to the American Humane Association. I have a story in the dog book The Dog Really Did That? about a dog I helped transport for a Colorado-based rescue group. One way I celebrate dogs is to write about them (see my website for the various inspirational pet books for children and adults); this Chicken Soup story, “Jazmine’s Journey,” is my seventh published work for Chicken Soup for the Soul. I’m honored to have several of my stories about pets, mostly rescue/shelter animals, in this internationally-recognized book collection!
Another way I celebrate dogs is to help my local and regional rescue groups through events and transportation needs. I transport for several groups, including Big Dogs Huge Paws and Mid-America Boston Terrier Rescue. And, I donate a percentage of my book sales to area pet rescue organizations.
Another way I celebrate dogs is to take care of my own pets in a variety of ways, and when the time comes to add another furry friend to the household, I adopt through a shelter or rescue. I’m seriously looking now for a new furry friend; my sweet cocker spaniel Cody has been gone for nearly 18 months. Several days a week I spend time searching for that “special someone” and when the opportunity arises for just the right dog (we are a multi-pet household), I will adopt a new four-footed friend.
There are many ways to celebrate the dogs in our lives and to help local, regional, and national animal rescue groups. Whether you donate needed supplies to your local shelter, assist in transporting animals for a regional rescue, or contribute money to a national group (even through purchasing the newly released Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Really Did That? or The Cat Really Did That?) or adopt from a shelter or rescue, you are helping dogs in need. And, you can celebrate your special dog every day simply by just being your pup’s best friend!
As the Dog Days of Summer engage, celebrate the incredible loyalty, friendship, and courage dogs give in your own special way.
Animals are such agreeable friends - they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms. ~ George Eliot
It's been nearly four years since the passing of Sage, my blind Springer Spaniel, and it's been less than two months since Cody, my cocker spaniel, died. I still miss both dogs. Each was a devoted friend, a faithful companion. Dogs are noted as faithful friends to humankind, often being called "man's best friend." Many news stories recount the dedication dogs have for their people, even for strangers. Those who alert humans to seizures, fire and other dangers; those who protect people from intruders; those who travel great distances to be reunited with their human family, and those that save people from drowning and avalanches – we learn about such stories nearly every day. Cats and dogs are used as therapy, serving in hospitals, nursing homes, and counseling centers. Loyalty is inherent in the gift of a four-footed friend.
People could, and should, take lessons from pets in the subject of loyalty. Adultery, lack of romantic commitment, fizzling of friendship, embezzlement, bullying -- all of these negative character traits, among so many others, speak to the nasty side of humankind; these attitudes and actions are not displayed in our furry companions.
What bonds a pet to a person? People are the caregivers of their pets, feeding, exercising, playing, petting, lounging; we are the guardians. The more one positively interacts with their pet, the stronger the bond, just as the longer one befriends a person the deeper the dedication to that friendship. And yet, we humans can turn on each other in the blink of an eye.
When Sage and Cody were alive, if I was gone on a business trip for several days, my dogs would follow me everywhere upon my return. Our dog Mary waits in a chair that's beside the front door, and the minute my husband or I walk in, being gone for part of the day to work, she greets us with a little happy dance ... and one of her favorite toys. Our pets' desire to be with us speaks volumes about their bond to us.
We can learn a lot from our pets, including a great lesson in loyalty. Broken relationships, greed, selfishness and other negative characteristics often found in humans are rarely seen in pets. There’s a saying that goes, “May I become the person my dogs thinks I am.” That plaque hangs on my wall and it's a great reminder to aspire to be exactly that -- the person my pets think I am, the good person they see in and bring out in me.
A sign hangs on my wall: “My Therapist Has a Wet Nose.” I bought the sign at a pet supply store a few years ago, and the saying is certainly true – in my house and in many other homes. My animals make great therapists – many pets do.
Research shows pets provide great health benefits to people. They can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and add years to our life. Experts tell us that pets help people who suffer from depression. The simple fact that our pets accept us for who we are, they love us unconditionally and are devoted companion, often waiting by the door for our return, makes us smile and builds our confidence and self-esteem. Dogs get us outdoors for fresh air and walks, and cats curl up in our laps and purr. All of these things and more are healthy benefits to people, both emotionally and physically.
People in nursing homes, hospitals, and hospice often feel weak, are in pain, and get discouraged. Many are lonely. Therapy pets raise their spirits, bringing smiles and joy into situations that can be sad and scary. Pet Partners, formally the Delta Society, and other groups certify pets and their owners for visiting these and other public places and studies show these animals provide great benefits to those whom they visit.
Although many people think of dogs when they envision pet therapy, dogs are not the only animals used for such work. Other animals, too, can be and are used in therapy situations; cats, bunnies, guinea pigs, even horses offer therapeutic value in various circumstances.
Unlike people with whom relationships can be complex, unpredictable, and stressful, animals are a great source of stability and companionship. Having a pet in one’s home can be calming and offer comfort when one is ill. Animals don’t change, and their loyalty to their owners and their ability to rebound from tough situations can be inspiring. The simple act of petting a dog or cat can lower blood pressure and bring a sense of calm to one’s spirit. Interacting with that pet in a playful manner can generate enjoyment and laughter. Even watching fish in a beautiful tank can bring about a sense of peace and an enjoyment of splendor through the colors of both the fish and the tank. And, don’t we all need a bit more tranquility, stability, and ability in our lives?
Pets are also a great source of comfort, especially for those affected by natural and other disasters. The K-9 Comfort Dogs from Lutheran Church Charities travel America to help quell the squall people experience after tornadoes, bombings, and other tragedies. Hugging a dog and allowing it to lick away tears of grief, fear, and anxiety brings comfort, and that's the job of the Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dogs – and many other such animal-human programs.
No matter what we’re experiencing, we find love, devotion, acceptance and comfort from the furry friends around us … and we can share that special beauty with others by being partners with our pets in helping those in our community and our country through therapy and comfort animal programs.
Have you hugged your pet today? Do so, and put some special pet therapy in your day!
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.