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Today is National Dog Day! Wishing you a happy, healthy National Dog Day from us to you and your canine companions! Every once in a while, a special day arrives which captures my imagination and takes the blog in a slightly different direction. So the rest of this will be about the wonderful things that dogs can do for us in helping us, supporting us, and even improving our health. The photos from today’s blogpost were taken today, Aug. 26, 2016 on our 5k fun run.

Looking back, before we got Misty, I was a little reluctant to get a dog. I thought it would be too much work, time, and energy that I just simply did not have. But after getting through the early puppy era, Misty has been a joy to have and spend time with. Working from home, I’m frequently alone or so I think until Misty comes to visit in her own friendly loving dog way. She sleeps so quietly during the day. Occasionally, I might hear her snore or stir, or her athletic legs may suddenly twitch in her sleep as if she were running.

Why do I recommend dogs to almost everyone? First, dogs love us unconditionally no matter what. They sense human emotion and can tell when we need that extra hug or kiss. Even the dog’s eyes speak to us with love. It becomes very hard to say no to a dog when those eyes twist our arms into saying yes when we mean to say no. Even when we must say no.

Secondly, dogs need exercise. Lots of it. Just like people. We can exercise with them, taking our dogs on walks and runs and playing with the dog indoors or outside. Just remember: if a bird, squirrel, or rabbit appears, all bets are off on your previously-planned route and pace. Sudden speed bursts and sudden stops are a tiny hazards we runners need to become more accustomed to, aren’t they? I run with Misty and walk with her daily when I’m home.

Third, dogs don’t ask for much most of the time (depending upon what you are eating for dinner). Yes, there are some moments of begging but what dog wouldn’t beg for bacon? or steak? We all need to take breaks from work and dogs provide a wonderful respite from the cold clamminess of our computer and phone screens.

Fourth, dogs provide a stabilizing force for health and longevity for humans. In particular, dogs remind us of the strong powerful healing of sleep, rest, and naps. Science backs this up, showing more times than not with some certainty that canine companionship keeps humans calm and more relaxed. It’s when we are truly alone that many of us tend to struggle more. We stress. We worry. We get upset and frustrated. We react instead of acting or letting go of what we cannot control. We can pour out our stresses and anxieties to dogs and they seem to understand. And have you seen how peacefully dogs sleep compared to us humans? Even their naps are silent. Unless they snore.

Fifth, dogs listen carefully most of the time. There are moments when dogs get fussy, trying to get their way if they really want to chase a rabbit or eat an entire steak. Or catch and eat a squirrel that won’t stop taunting the dog. But dogs listen to us, they hear, they may not understand everything but they get the gist of what really matters.

Sixth, dogs change us into different versions of ourselves, better versions of ourselves. We find ourselves more compassionate, patient, and understanding when dealing with dogs. We learn their tendencies and how to best raise them with discipline when necessary, but more importantly, with love. Dogs are love. Therefore, we should love our dogs because they love us. Look lovingly into your dog’s eyes. Can you sense and feel the love and affection that dog has for you? It’s a deep loyal understanding love.

Seventh, dogs really are our best friends. Usually they don’t argue with us (disagreements yes but not arguments). They wait when we aren’t ready to walk yet. They hug us when we are lonely, depressed, or upset. They lick our salty legs after we run. (Not sure why but I know I’m a salty sweater.) Dogs take the edge off of us: we become kinder, more loving, compassionate, and friendly human beings by raising dogs and bonding with them.

Eighth, dogs surprise us when we don’t expect it: sometimes it’s just waking us up in the middle of the night. But other times, it’s a dog waking us up in the morning when it’s time. Actually 5 minutes (or more) before the alarm clock goes off. But who needs an alarm clock if you have a dog who is an early riser? I set an alarm but 95% of the time, Misty the English setter wakes me up better.

Ninth, dogs can find things outside that we would not otherwise see. Earlier this week, Misty found a large frog right next to our house in the dark and was pawing it. Checking with my phone light, I realized that it was a live frog. I would have missed it. As a TCU Horned Frog alum, I don’t like to miss frogs. But Misty senses obstacles when we run and walk from dangerous things to less dangerous things and sniffs out trouble before we sense it. Oh and I almost forgot, dog detours result in us finding things, like money. Seriously. It happens.

Tenth, and this is an important one, dogs help keep us safe on our runs, walks, and at home. It gives us a sense of security to know that our dog will alert, react, and bark loudly if something is wrong. There’s strength in canine companionship that goes way beyond what I’ve written about today. But I hope you better understand what dogs can do to positively improve our lives, health, and well-being. We all want to live longer with a higher quality of life and better health. With dogs, this is possible. Not only possible but probable.

We love you Misty (Moo), thank you for being our special canine family friend!