By Scott Hunt
The Dog Grumbler
IN this modern, hectic age it is good to find a way to chill out.
Some folks meditate. There are many approaches to this and those who find one that suits them extol the benefits.
Some prefer physical or mental activity: sports, puzzles and so on.
Sometimes just a beer or a pizza can clear away the cobwebs and allow one to fully relax and shed the stresses of this high-pressure rat race we call life.
We find relief in card games or video games or Morris Dancing or Line Dancing or fishing or sailing or bushwalking.
The list goes on and I have enjoyed and continue to enjoy and draw solace from many of these things – except Morris Dancing, although I do feel better about myself when I watch others do it.
For me however, nothing beats a good dose of dog.
Being greeted by someone who was prepared to wait forever is great therapy.
Relaxing in the company of someone who loves and trusts you, who needs only your presence to be content is a special experience available free to dog owners and requires no Lycra, sweat or specialist equipment.
You don’t need to try very hard or even think much.
Stroking, massaging and scratching a dog has proven physical and mental benefits for both parties.
It releases the hormone oxytocin — common to dogs and humans — which bonds mothers and babies, just as it does humans and dogs.
I jabber about cooked, discarded bones and human leftovers as the attraction that led our dogs’ ancestors to evolve as they did.
I stress the importance of guidance because only we can show dogs how to survive in a human world.
But there is something else that we can offer them: a big long “scritch” (my word, but feel free to use it — your dog understands) on the back, or chest when they roll over.
Lots of animals enjoy this.
Horses mostly love a curry comb. Cats love to be stroked. Elephants rub trees raw scritching their own thick hides, and thick hide is what dogs have.
The domestic dog’s nearest relative — the grey wolf — isn’t into being scritched because its skin is significantly thinner than a dog’s and they never learned to trust us anyway.
And only a human can do it — or at least do it better than a tree.
Your dog has thick skin and good reason to be itchy in places it can’t reach.
It’s a great way to let your best friend know you care and to carry its scent with you as it carries yours.
You both feel better afterwards.
For most people, giving pleasure to others feels good. Certainly, it gives immediate and tangible pleasure to your dog — and that’s before the oxytocin kicks in.
I think this is undervalued.
A dog is a proximate opportunity to do a good turn; to be kind for the sheer pleasure of pleasing another.
Sometimes, in a contemplative moment, I realise my dog has joined me where I sit and I am absently scritching her back or massaging her neck and all my cares and concerns seem less burdensome.
She wants nothing more than my company and this simple affirmation of my affection and in the moment, I can think of no place I would rather be; no man I would change places with.
Try it. Your arm will tire of it long before Rover does.
And, when he lays on his back and you find just the right spot and one leg starts pumping like a skateboarder in a hurry? I don’t know what that is, but it rivals Morris Dancing for entertainment value.