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Chapter Seven (pages 34, 35, 36, 37)

THE LOVE SPONGES

Never mind hugging a tree...Did you hug your dog today?

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What is it about these furry companions that melt our hearts? The reason is simple: the love we receive from our canine counterparts is pure. They don't love us because we're pretty or handsome, young or old, rich or poor, fat or skinny. They just do. (Even our closest human companions are not that magnanimous.)
    I think that their affectionate nature is probably what we love most about dogs. They're always in the mood for love. Never reject us. Never too busy or too tired to give us a kiss, curl up in our lap, or lie down beside us. And when we talk to them lovingly, they immediately respond by exposing their vulnerable belly and submissively curling their front paws, waiting for an intoxicating belly rub. If it were up to them, they would stay there all day and absorb as much love and affection as humanly possible.
    There is an undeniable, indefinable connection between dogs and people and has been for the past fifteen thousand years. We are unequivocally a match made in heaven. (The genomes of dogs and humans are strikingly similar.)

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    And they're good for us to boot, both physically and emotionally. It's a known fact that dog owners fifty and over see their doctors less often and have lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Just pet your pooch and see how relaxed you become, better than a margarita or tai chi. And we recover from illnesses significantly faster than dogless individuals. They can even detect cancer cells in the early stages with their incredible nosed, which can be lifesaving. Amazing creatures! Also, you have to get off your butt to walk them, which is an added health bonus. In a recent study, they found that people who walk their dogs twenty minutes a day, five times a week, for a year, lost an average of fourteen pounds. Not bad.
    I recently read three interesting articles about the incredible dog. The first one was about a women who was saved by her dog, Joey, a yellow Lab service dog, from a diabetic coma. She was by herself and was about to faint when her dog ran up to her and gave her the signal to call the emergency ambulance, which she did and which saved her life.
    Another woman was choking on a piece of meat when her German shepherd jumped up on her, briskly hitting her in the chest in a Heimlich manner and causing her to cough up the wedged meat.
    "If Leo weren't there, it would have been the end of me," she said while stroking his fur lovingly. Was it an accident? Or did he instinctively know how to help her?
    And still another pretty incredible story: a woman's golden retriever kept repeatedly sniffing her knee and, despite her protests wouldn't stop.
    "I kept telling him to cut it out, but he wouldn't listen."
    Then one day, while going for a routine examination, she mentioned the fact that the dog kept smelling her leg. Turns out she had a malignant mole on her leg, which was immediately removed and which, if left undetected, could have killed her.
    "I have my dog to thank for saving my life," she smiled tearfully. "What would I do without him?"

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    There are countless stories about dogs saving people: dragging them out of freezing water, getting help for them when they are unable to get it for themselves, going back into a burning building to rescue a loved one with never a thought of protecting themselves. Recently, a greyhound mix literally pulled a baby out of a house on fire. The unbelievable stories go on and on. No wonder they're called man's best friend.
    Our canine children contribute an undeniable richness to our lives. They provide comfort to handicapped and physically and mentally challenged people and have a positive effects on the elderly, making them feel less isolated and needed. Also, they have successfully used dogs in women's prisons, which has facilitated their rehabilitation.
    Need a love fix? Just look in their eyes. They have the most incredible peepers, captivating and soulful. They need not say a word. We know by their intense gaze what they're thinking: Don't leave me. Give me a belly rub. I love you. Let's go for a walk. And no matter how huge our dog may be, he will invariably want to curl up like a ball in our laps. They just can't get close enough.
    It doesn't take much to make our dogchild happy: An occasional pat on the head. A warm place to sleep. A bowl of food and a tennis ball will put a smile on their face. (Yes, despite what some say, dogs do smile. The sides of their mouth actually curl up when they're happy.) They don't need a flat TV or a trip to Paris, or a seven-karat perfect blue white Harry Winston diamond, just the basics. A few "good boys" or "good girls," sprinkled with a little praise and an occasional dog bone, and they are wildly content. Something we humans might learn from our four-legged friends, deriving happiness from the simple things in life, like a sunny day or a brisk walk in a park. Those are indeed the untapped treasures of life. We are usually too damn busy to appreciate the uncomplicated things, aimlessly rushing here and there, trying to fill each day with superfluous stuff-a sale at Macy's a nail appointment, a calligraphy course-when all we really need are the

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basics-namely, health, love, and security, and maybe a beautiful sunset or two.
    Note: You never see a dog frown. No need for Botox in the canine world. Why? Because they don't sweat the small stuff, nor do they worry about tomorrow. They live in the moment, which is, quite frankly, the best way to live. Perhaps that's the way we humans were once upon a time, long before life got too complicated.

 

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