The list of why dogs are great goes on and on. They inspire you to interact with the world around you. They help with anxiety and depression. It is buoying to take care of another creature, to have a trusted friend. I knew all this going into dog ownership, but coronavirus has shed light on one of the less-heralded greatnesses of dogs: Ramona lives in the now. When you spend most of your time with a dog, that rubs off on you, too. It’s so easy for me to fall into a spiral of negativity about the world and future, but Ramona doesn’t know and doesn’t, frankly, care about politics or pandemics. As long as I keep providing her food, water, and love, she’s all good. She has no concerns about the mundane things, either: failure, deadlines, or her Twitter following (she doesn’t even have an account!). Instead of zoning out with Netflix, she sits on a pile of pillows on the couch, gazing out the window, and she barks when she sees something interesting, even if it’s the exact same interesting that happened five minutes ago.
8 tips to make your dog happy
Plan for When You’re Not There. Make sure your pets are provided for during those long hours when you’re away. Dr. Becker suggests technological options. “DOGTV has stimulation and relaxation channels, and there are apps that control contraptions that talk to your pet, or dispense treats. Pheromone sprays can also reduce anxiety, creating that kumbaya atmosphere.” And, of course, daycare and dog walkers are a great way to enrich your pet’s day. “Know someone who wants exercise? Maybe they’ll walk your dog.”
Spending time with her, I’m reminded that so much of what we consider a happy, successful life is largely made up in our own minds, and often the product of ego and lack of fulfillment in other ways. She wants an array of simple things, but they are joyful: walks in nature, naps in the afternoon, a delicious treat. It reminds me that humans need all those things, too, now more than ever.Also, dogs are just fun. In the book The Other End of the Leash, the writer and animal behaviorist Dr Patricia McConnell notes that dogs and humans are among the few animals that demonstrate the need to play throughout their entire lives, even as adults. Humans may forget this, but dogs never do. When I’m pulling my hair out over the latest news story or wondering if there will ever be a vaccine, Ramona is there, shoving her nose under my arm, nudging me to pet her, or running in circles around the rug until I get up and chase her and then laugh so hard my ribs hurt. We’re more in tune with each other than ever, it seems. The other day, when I didn’t feel well, Ramona jumped up to cuddle with me on the couch. She touched my hand with her paw, and my heart basically melted into a puddle of goo.
People worry, what will happen to our poor dogs when we go back to “how things used to be” and leave them alone again for much of the day, but I think the real question is, what happens to us? Though, of course, a dog wouldn’t worry about that. A dog would just live the moments as they come.Jen Doll is a freelance journalist and the author of the young adult novel Unclaimed Baggage and the memoir Save the Date