President Harry Truman was well-known for his many colorful sayings. And I always thought one of his best quips was, “If you want a friend [in Washington, D.C.], get a dog.”
About 55 percent of U.S. adults, ages 50 to 80 years, take Truman’s advice to keep a pet. Which is great news, as having a pet is one of the top-10 simple health changes you can make to improve your health, well-being, and longevity.
Plus, according to a recent national poll, having a pet also helps a majority of older adults:
- Enjoy life
- Feel loved
- Reduce stress
- Feel a sense of purpose
- Connect with other people
- Stick to a routine
Of course, having a pet also helps reduce loneliness, one of the biggest, hidden causes of physical and mental decline in older adults.
Dogs in particular always seem to be there for you. In fact, as you go about your day, you may even notice your dog intently staring at you and/or following you around.
Dogs developed this unique behavior after living in close, domesticated relationships with humans over thousands of years. It helps them communicate with you. And it certainly helps you feel their presence more strongly.
For example, dogs often stare at their owners for several reasons throughout the course of a day:
- When they want you to drop a tasty morsel of the food you’re eating
- When they want to go out
- When they want to play
- When they want to go out and play
- When they need you to retrieve a toy that got stuck somewhere
Some dogs can even be trained to look at you at crosswalks, waiting for a cue to continue. And many dogs also stare at their owners for protection and reassurance when they’re doing their business, as it’s somewhat of a defenseless act.
Dogs also stare at their owners to simply express affection. Which explains why soaking in a dog’s affectionate stare raises levels of oxytocin, a hormone associated with bonding.
Plus, dogs are good at reading your expressions. So, she or he may just be looking at you for clues to how you’re feeling.
I really do think President Truman, who lived until almost 89, was onto something important with his advice about keeping a dog as a friend. Dogs simply make life better.
So, after our beloved Great Dane Max passed away last summer, our daughter didn’t let much time pass before adopting another furry friend.
“Pets help ease aging process.” Newsmax, 4/4/2019. (newsmax.com/health/health-news/pets-aging-help/2019/04/03/id/909974/)