Life with a dog: From snuggles to a better social life

By Debbi Lozon | August 26, 2022
Debbi Lozon of Sharp Memorial Hospital, with her dog, Sassy.

Debbi Lozon of Sharp Memorial Hospital, with her dog, Sassy.

By Debbi Lozon, a senior marketing specialist with Sharp Memorial Hospital.

It’s no secret that dogs make us happy. The emotional and physical benefits to having a dog are nearly endless.

Dogs can be our companions and connect us to the outside world. They are our fitness buddies, keeping our hearts and bodies healthy. But best of all, dogs are a source of pure, unconditional love.

Saving Sassy while she saves me
I first met my dog, Sassy, while volunteering at a pet adoption event and quickly fell in love. Since I fall in love with every dog I meet, I didn’t take it too seriously. Plus, I was going on vacation a few days later and couldn’t commit to adopting a dog.

But when I returned home from my trip, Sassy’s photo popped up in my Facebook feed, showing that she was still available for adoption. I knew it was meant to be. I rescued Sassy — but in reality, she rescued me.

Sassy is my devoted companion, my confidant and a source of constant amusement. She will lift my spirits with her antics, a well-placed ball thrown at my feet or a soulful look from her large brown eyes. She is a judgment-free sounding board who is — paws down — the best cuddler. She simply brings joy into my life!

Health benefits of having a dog
While I need no convincing about the pros of having Sassy in my life, health experts will tell you there are several benefits to having a dog.

  • Dogs make us feel less alone.
    Dogs are always there for you, in good times and bad. They are your friends when you’re lonely and a reason to laugh when you’re down.

    Dogs offer emotional support and constant cuddles that help stave off social isolation, providing valuable companionship for older adults. Caring for a dog can help you feel needed and wanted, especially if you live alone. And nothing beats loneliness like being greeted by a wagging tail.
     

  • Dogs improve our mental health.
    Studies have shown that petting or interacting with a dog can have a calming effect because it increases the levels of oxytocin in the brain. Oxytocin boosts feelings of relaxation, trust and empathy while reducing stress and anxiety.

    And humans aren’t the only species to benefit. Simply looking into each other’s eyes causes a tremendous spike in oxytocin levels in both pets and their people.
     

  • Dogs keep us fit and active.
    Taking a dog for a walk or run is a fun way to fit exercise into your day. Walking your dog on a daily basis can lower cholesterol levels and decrease the risk of high blood pressure and other heart conditions. Daily dog walks can also help you lose and maintain weight and improve your muscle tone.

    Additionally, knowing your dog depends on you for its health makes it more difficult to skip regular exercise. Plus, it’s a fantastic way to enjoy the outdoors.
     

  • Dogs make us more social.
    Being out and about with your dog is the perfect way to get to know others and form new friendships. A dog by your side can make you more approachable and give people a conversation starter. (People always want to chat about Sassy — she’s just that great!)

    It increases your opportunities for social interactions, whether at a park, on the beach or simply in passing. And each of these exchanges can help decrease feelings of loneliness and isolation.
     

  • Dogs help us be more mindful.
    Dogs find everyday life exciting. They can’t wait to eat, go for their walk or see you when you come home.

    Dogs also tend to live in the moment — they don’t worry about what happened yesterday or what might happen tomorrow. Dogs teach you to be present and appreciate the simple things in life.

Offering unconditional love, devoted companionship, constant entertainment — and health benefits too: Life is simply better with a dog!

Pet adoption fees will be waived for all animals at the County of San Diego animal shelters in Bonita and Carlsbad for the entire month of August to celebrate “Clear the Shelters.” Or consider contacting local nonprofit rescue organizations to find your next canine companion.

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Debbi Lozon

Author

Debbi Lozon is a senior marketing specialist with Sharp Memorial Hospital.


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