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Valentine's Day 2011 should extend to pets as well, say experts

Dave Masko's picture

There is a view from the Humane Society of the United States and other dog experts that “people and animals need the same things to be safe, healthy, happy and loved;” thus, on Valentine’s Day 2011, experts say “your dog needs more than just food, water, shelter, and grooming. Your dog needs love.”

In fact, there’s still many “unknowns about how much dogs really process from human interactions. What we do know is dogs can feel love,” states a Humane Society fact sheet on dogs.

Moreover, dogs seem to get the short end of the stick when it comes to Valentine’s Day, say some pet owners, “because so much emphasis is placed on human joy that the dog may feel unloved on this special day devoted to showing and expressing love."

Dogs experience good times and bad, with nearly 78 million Americans owning dogs

Dogs are flying under the radar these days due to a country weary with recession and their masters dealing with life; while dog ownership has reached an all time high of 77.5 million for an average of one in every three America homes having a dog.

The Humane Society also notes that as Americans suffer through this lingering recession, so too do their dogs suffer such human maladies as depression and stress.

“Our Suzie wanted to stop and look at the storms over the ocean. The weather was real bad driving down from Salem to Depoe, but Suzie also likes look at the whales. She barks when she sees one and that gives us a big charge,” says Bill and Jill Vaughn while their dog Suzie sits behind the wheel of the car looking happy as can be.

“She (Suzie) is so special to us that we take her just about everywhere like our child,” adds Jill Vaughn.

The Vaughn’s braved violent winter storms along the central Oregon coast just before Valentine’s Day to visit the “Whale Watching Center” at Depoe Bay long Highway 101 next to the Pacific Ocean. Depoe Bay’s claim to fame is having the world’s smallest harbor, and the place to be to spot gray whales that goes on year round here in this remote region of the Oregon coast.

Suzie likes to bark and bark when the Vaughn's spot a whale. The owners think this makes their dog happy.

The idea of including dogs in family activities is “one way to fight family stress and the right thing to do” said famed Dog Whisperer John Richardson during one of his recent TV programs.

Richardson also notes that dogs “feel stress just like humans,” and with peoples increasingly busy lifestyles “it’s a good thing to get dogs involved in helping.”

One way the Vaughn’s involve their dog Suzie is with family outings and yard work. “We reward her with a trip to the local shops to do shopping with us, and then she helps out with the yard work by fetching sticks that we place in a big pile in the yard. Suzie is proud of that pile of sticks, and just playing with her helps ease my stress levels,” adds Jill Vaughn.

At a nearby senior center, dogs are regularly brought in as a “form of treatment” for an aging population that feels isolated from the world.

Therapy dogs, as they’re called, are now a regular treatment to help people cope with both mental and physical problems.

Bill Vaughn notes that their dog Suzie even spends time with a neighbor who suffers from depression. “Calvin is a senior who lives alone. When we bring Suzie by for a visit he’s much happier, and gets all excited at feeding Suzie. It’s a great thing to see,” he adds.

At the same time, Dr. Paul McGreevy’s bestseller “A Modern Dog’s Life,” concurs with the Vaughn’s view on how to “stay active and in touch with their dog.”

For instance, McGreevy writes about research that says “regular physical contact” with your dog is vital in helping both owner and pet deal with stress that’s running rampant in our society today. Physical contact with a dog also establishes “bonds between people and pet.”

Also, this veterinarian and professor of animal behavior reminds owners that “dogs don’t get bored eating the same food day after day because they swallow it so quickly, and they can’t taste the difference between one snack and another.”

Moreover, McGreevey has found that dogs are “more likely to be aggressive toward male visitors because they anticipate that males are more likely to create trouble and threaten resources.”

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