parkinson's and having a pet dog

Wellbeing: What a Difference a Dog Makes!

Last updated: November 2022

"All you need is Love"... well, plus food, shelter, and mountains of pills!

Posy feels we should all own a dog. Not only does a dog motivate its owner to get out and walk, but its antics and reciprocal love contribute highly to a person with Parkinson's (PWP) wellbeing.

Posy and exercise

Posy is shocked at her apathy when it comes to embarking on a routine of physical exercise. She would not like to have to give her cocker spaniel all the big walks or runs it needs, but a doggie walk round the village with her husband or neighbor is surely a happy form of taking exercise?

Sometimes Posy is worried that her legs will seize up from lack of use, but on the occasions when she does get out for a walk, she wonders why she doesn’t do this regularly. Each day, new resolutions are made for a fresh start "tomorrow."

Procrastination and excuses

However, the next morning, once Posy has got up, showered, dressed, made herself presentable enough not to frighten the horses, cleaned the house, and put on the laundry, she gravitates to the piano or computer where she always has things she needs to practice or compose.

Many hours later, satiated with achievement and productivity, she is too drained to think about exercising! Strangely, another excuse is that Posy’s leg pain (and currently, foot pain) is always worse after walking. Stretching exercises seem to have benefit, but walking seems to make pain worse. However, she knows she should push through that and keep on exercising.

Improving mental health

Do you forget your worries the minute you engage with your dog? Posy can multi-task with many other activities, but somehow, cuddling with her dog fills Posy’s whole being with such warmth and joy, that her brain seems unable to entertain bad thoughts at the same time.

Stroking a dog apparently releases endorphins. Maybe it can also increase dopamine levels? It is certainly one of the most effective ways Posy knows of calming her mind and lifting her spirits.

Comfort in a crisis

Posy’s daughter in Florida has a Weimaraner who has been at her side through 10 years of traumas and difficult times. Now, unbearably, the lovely animal is reaching the end, and yet it seems to understand just how much her owner (who is very unwell) needs her.

Suddenly, the dog is the one feeling the responsibility. Surely, everyone with a dog can relate to this role reversal and has experienced the comfort a dog brings when we are down.

Those big puppy eyes cannot be resisted. Love shines out from Posy's pup. She just has to stop what she is doing and love it back! Reciprocal love brings pure joy! One needs only to consider the popularity of animal videos on YouTube. It is obviously beneficial to laugh at the antics of such sweet creatures!

The responsibility

Posy is fortunate that her husband takes most of the responsibility for their dog. He also loves wildlife and nature, so, when home, he potters happily outside, rain or shine.

Posy does often have the pup to herself, though, and she loves how the little animal follows her everywhere. Thankfully, this level of responsibility is enough to make her feel needed.

Of course, it is slightly irritating that the dog always needs to go out into the garden just as Posy has finally sat down to relax in front of the TV! Although Posy does not always (ahem: often) join her husband for the long dog walks, she is kept on the move by the puppy's demands for her attention.

"Please get up and play with me," "Please take me in the garden to pee," ... Posy’s dog doesn’t know to make allowances for a PWP and persists by pulling on her skirt hem, stealing her tissue or other trophy, until Posy gives in and goes outside to look at the hedgehog in the garden.

The energy to get out of her chair has to be mustered! Therefore, not only is owning a dog good for Posy’s health and well-being, it is also a motivation to look after her own health: We all need a reason to keep going!

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