How and Why my Dog Haley and I Help Each Other

IMG_0213My dog Haley has Karen and me locked into a one- to two-mile morning walk that makes all of us feel better.

Rain, sleet, snow, cold, heat, wind or smoke are unacceptable excuses because we’ve been through all of them.

And I love it — even before we start and even more after we’re done.

I’ve wondered why. It turns out there is a medical reason that makes it more marvelously mysterious and it’s linked to our mutual gazing.

Animal behavioral scientists have discovered when we gaze into each other’s eyes our brains get increased levels of oxytocin. “Oxytocin (is) a hormone that plays a role in maternal bonding, trust and altruism,” according to an April 2015 article “How dogs stole our hearts,” published on sciencemag.org.

Can this experience truly come from a 14-pound brown and white beagle/terrier mix we bought from a rescue mission in 2011? I’d heard people with heart problems like I have healed faster with a pet dog. It’s working for me.

Haley’s excitement starts when she watches me head to the bedroom after breakfast. She jumps off the living room couch and charges onto our bed, where she spins around to lie down. She fixes her gaze on me and licks her snout as she ducks her head while whirling her tail around her rump.

The sciencemag.org article goes on to say, “Mutual gazing had a profound effect on both the dogs and their owners. Of the duos (dogs and humans) that had spent the greatest amount of time looking into each other’s eyes, both male and female dogs experienced a 130 percent rise in oxytocin levels, and both male and female owners a 300 percent increase.”

When I look at Haley, she’s watching my eyes and instantly her tail whips faster, her tongue licks faster and her head bobs up and down faster. That may explain why I’m feel peppier getting dressed.  IMG_0207

Besides, probably no other time during this day will I be so encouraged, so rewarded to complete a simple task.

Haley jumps off the bed and runs back and forth to the back door. She charges out underneath the rising garage door into whatever weather assaults her.

She won’t go into that same weather at night when I open the door for her to make a last pit stop, but before a morning walk, no problem.

I’m not ready to start and she knows it. When I bend over to tie my long shoelaces into double knots around the grommets of my boots, she hits her peak impatience. She zooms back to stick her nose into my knot-tying to lick my fumbling, exposed hands and face. I can’t discourage her. I muddle through.

I love it.

This unfathomably immense cosmos allows a 14-pound, four-legged mammal to bond with a 160-pound bimodal mammal — and make me feel marvelous before exercising and even better afterward. Science explains it’s because we’re increasing each other’s oxytocin levels by gazing into each other’s eyes.

That makes it feel more mysteriously miraculous for which I daily thank a divine presence.

 

 

About Russellsclearskies

Writing to poke fun at a retired klutz like me who's curiously exploring the absurdities and complexities of the good life. .
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10 Responses to How and Why my Dog Haley and I Help Each Other

  1. Jane says:

    I remember when you were first looking for a dog. I see you walking with her from time to time and I am so glad it all worked out well for you. Reremembering our dog Sidney’s wonderful gaze brings tears to our eyes…now gone nearly three years.

  2. president5 says:

    We have had dogs all or married life and so we can relate to your great article
    when we have eye to eye contact, all the communication is done in silence. As you
    know it is a wonderful feeling.Now I know the science behind the feeling. Something to bark about
    that’s for sure

  3. Audi Reinthaler says:

    Love this story. I want so bad to have a dog again, like a little Dachshund mix. I have 3 cats And I am not sure they would accept a little dog. Plus I would have to be the care taker of it too. Pete has Parkinson and has gone downhill the last 2 months. I am exhausted from just taking care of him all day. Pete could not ever walk a dog at this point. I keep looking at the Wen Human Society web site, they had one mix once, but it was a male. I want a female. Haley would be the right size for me also to consider. I can see your routine and thanks for sharing this. Audi

    Sent from my iPad

    On Apr 2, 2016, at 3:11 AM, James S Russells Clear Skies wrote:

    WordPress.com Russellsclearskies posted: “My dog Haley has Karen and me locked into a one- to two-mile morning walk that makes all of us feel better. Rain, sleet, snow, cold, heat, wind or smoke are unacceptable excuses because we’ve been through all of them. And I love it — even before we “

  4. Wfbrock says:

    Jim,

    I went to the Wiki page on oxytocin and learned about how it affects the uterus. I like your explanation better!!!

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxytocin

    Best regards,

    Bill

    >

  5. Bob Hiedemann says:

    A great article! I wish I would more but my back injury makes me feel very bad! Bob H,

    • I’m sorry about your back, but when it heals maybe you’ll be able to get a large dog so you ride it or lean on it. Seriously, I hope you get some healing relief. Our prayers are with you while you have to tough it out for a month or so following your osteopath’s instruction.

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