Welcome to the Head Space column, where we’ll discuss all matters related to mental health and how it relates to our lives here in Singapore.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic started in early 2020, we’ve all noticed how many more dogs are now in Singapore. Puppies, babies, new businesses, working from home and fold-up cycling all seemed to explode as people had the chance to decide just when the right time was to do things that mattered and made an
All around me and my family, neighbors were getting dogs and making them part of their pack. Adding a family member of the furry kind is no small task, as it’s a major life adjustment. But everyone seemed happy with the change including waking up for morning walks, as well as additions to the weekly grocery bill and even in education (via doggy training and daycare).
I have it on good authority that getting dog can change your life. I know it did for me! I was lucky enough to be able to rescue a pitbull named Loki back in 2003 amidst a difficult time dealing with Bipolar Disorder. Loki gave me purpose and the unconditional love and support that I needed to rebuild my life. After Loki died in 2009, I took a really long time to decide when to get another dog. [You can read more about how Loki became my psychiatric service dog and assisted me with managing the illness and getting to a point where I could reclaim mental health wellness in my book, Bipolar Phoenix, available on Amazon.]
Two years into the pandemic, I was struggling, mainly with my relationship with my little girl, age 9, who I believe had just had it with all the isolation of COVID-19 restrictions and regulations. I knew we all needed a boost of love and affection in the family and came to the conclusion that adding a dog to our lives was the right thing to do at just the right time. Yes, we had to consider adding walks, dog park visits, feeding times and obedience training to our daily family routine, but it was time.
We asked around to our friends who were happy with the places they’d gotten their dogs and settled on a place that imported “doodles” from the United Kingdom. Though labradoodles and goldendoodles have become extremely popular here on the East Coast, based on daily our walks in East Coast Park, we decided to take it down a size notch and seek out a cockapoo, which is a mix between a cocker spaniel and a poodle.
That’s when we found Sunny, our own “cockadoodle,” as I said when we came into the adoption center. There he was, this gorgeous orange fluffy pupster in a huge cage of white goldendoodles. He was our guy, I knew it. I asked the assistant to bring him out and she immediately put the puppy in my daughter’s arms. Yep, he was the right one, as the assistant noted that most people don’t get to hold the puppies right away upon viewing.
After some paperwork and payments, Sunny came home to us a few days later. And we were in Puppy Heaven!
But don’t take my word for it. Many mental health experts say getting a family dog can be a huge benefit to kids and families. According to an article from Parents.com, “The Benefits of Pets for Kids,” pets, in general, can help with the following:
Pets can help with learning.
Children (and even some adults) can benefit from having a non-judgmental “listener” as they take a shot at reading or doing homework with the family dog around. Many schools have pet therapy and also have incorporated reading programs to build confidence by having a dog there with them.
Pets provide emotional comfort.
When kids and adults experience strong emotions, cuddling with their best furry friend can help lower anxiety. Many studies have shown that doggy love can heal, going back to that unconditional and non-judgmental support theory. That companionship also
Pets encourage nurturing.
Experts says nurturing is often a learned behavior and it comes from taking care of someone, or something, else. Feeding, petting, walking and training a dog can surely offer a wide range of ways to learn how taking care of a life. This has important benefits, not the least of which is the satisfaction of seeing their pet happy.
Pets help bond families.
Families can not only enjoy cuddles and playtime with their new puppy or dog, but also can join together in the activities that make having a dog the most fun, such as walking, running, playing ball and even swimming. As the dog becomes a focal point, families can work together to make him or her feel welcome and at home.
I know by adding Sunny to our lives our family is now happier overall. My daughter has the “sibling” we could not give her and nothing beats having a doggy wake you up on a Monday morning after a long weekend.
So, if you’ve been tinkering with the idea of adding a fur baby to the mix, take a look around at people who have done so. Evaluate your own values and options. Then you can make the right call for your family. Even though we were the last of our friends to adopt a dog, I knew we would not regret it.
Sunny is here to “stay” and we’re “sitting” right along with him.