What makes a dog such a good pet, not just for any age, but also for older people? As we stated in a recent article, the breed of dog is important particularly for older people. Too large and they could be too difficult to handle, they may need too much exercise on a daily basis, they might be too boisterous to the extent of being dangerous or just too much work. However, smaller dogs can be ideal. Their requirement for daily exercise gets us out of the house for some exercise ourselves and of course, for the opportunity to nod hello or converse with other dog walkers.
The collection of poems Dog Songs by Mary Oliver really shows us how wonderful dogs are as pets, how we can converse with them, how they listen, how they never answer back, how they always seem to agree, empathise, sympathise and nod at the right moment. This extract from ‘The Sweetness of Dogs’ shows just how unconditional their love is, how they seem to think their master/mistress is the one and only.
… Thus, we sit, myself
thinking how grateful I am for the moon’s perfect beauty and also, oh! how rich
it is to love the world. Percy, meanwhile,
leans against me and gazes up into
my face. As though I were just as wonderful
as the perfect moon.
One way to raise your self esteem and your happiness levels is to have a dog who worships the ground you walk now and never thinks of you as silly, careless or as having any other flaws.
Oliver’s poetry also shows how dogs don’t give up and will keep you enthused to keep trying at something. This poem details a conversation with her dog Ricky when they are watching a TV programme where show dogs are being groomed again and again. Ricky sympathises and while wanting ensure that all dogs live a good and ‘proper’ life, recognises that he can’t change everything but a little bit at a time goes a long way.
If I ever meet one of these dogs I’m going
to invite him to come here, where he can
be a proper dog.”
Okay, I said. But remember, you can’t fix
everything in the world for everybody.
“However,” said Ricky, “you can’t do
anything at all unless you begin. Haven’t
I heard you say that once or twice, or
maybe a hundred times?”
Isn’t that lovely? Wouldn’t that inspire you to get started with something you’ve been putting off – be it get fitter, read more, write more, get out for longer walks, whatever it might be.
I think my favourite poem is Little Dog’s Rhapsody in the Night – where it really shows the unconditional nature of a dog’s love and how they, in turn, teach us how to love and to reveal our feelings too.
He puts his cheek against mine
and makes small, expressive sounds.
And when I’m awake, or awake enough
he turns upside down, his four paws
in the air
and his eyes dark and fervent.
“Tell me you love me,” he says.
“Tell me again.”
Could there be a sweeter arrangement? Over and over
he gets to ask.
I get to tell.
As the owner of a hard working border collie, who works so hard to please and who loves being praised and rubbed and appreciates attention, I do believe there is nothing quite like a dog’s love. Would you agree? What breed of dog do you think is most suitable for older people?