pets

[OPINION] Self-care, as told by dogs

Gabriela Veronica Tuazon
[OPINION] Self-care, as told by dogs
'It takes a lot of steps to take care of our mental health, and our dogs do their job of reminding us of these steps, whether we’re aware of it or not'

The pandemic has drawn families, including pets, closer together. Being stuck inside a bedroom-turned-classroom has turned our pets into classmates as well.

I live with my four dogs, Obi (a German Shepherd), Snow (a Labrador), Chewy (their son – what we call a “Huskador” or “Labsky”), and Solo (a Beagle). A year and a half into this pandemic, and  being at home has given me an opportunity to rekindle my fondness for dogs.  

There’s science behind the effect of dogs on mental health. Most of these studies were conducted on patients undergoing in-house long-term care. Given the current circumstances, our being on lockdown for the duration of the pandemic provides evidence enough of the help our dogs can offer us.  

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Owning a pet is a give-and-take relationship. Throughout the time I’ve continued to spend with my dogs, I’ve paid more attention to their needs, and they, in turn, have helped me to reflect on the way I take care of myself. It takes a lot of steps to take care of our mental health, and our dogs do their job of reminding us of these steps, whether we’re aware of it or not.  

We all try to do our best to follow a routine at home. This is no different from teaching dogs tricks and making sure they get proper exercise daily. My numerous Youtube searches about dog training have shown one common denominator: consistency and patience. While these tricks are simple, they make us realize the joy of accomplishing small tasks. At the end of each training session, one treat is enough to make our dogs happy, while at the same time, the newly accomplished skill of just sitting down or fetching on our command gives us motivation to train them even more. 

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Bringing out my dogs for walks is usually the only way I am able to interact with others, aside from my family members. As an introvert, this helps me exercise my ability to practice small talk, and it amuses me how after a walk, I learn about the breeds and the names of the dogs I have encountered, but nothing about the owners.  

A trip outdoors, even to the vet, is already a change in environment, especially after spending days at home or just following the home and grocery schedule. It makes us look forward to a change in scenery, a stimulation of the senses, and if the vet is full, new knowledge of other dog breeds we didn’t even know existed.  

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Even if my dogs spend their day just eating, sleeping, chasing around cats, or barking at other dogs that pass by, they’re an example of living the simple life and focusing on the things that matter. At the same time, tending to their needs is an exercise in thinking less of myself. When I take care of them, I don’t expect as much in return. To a certain extent, it is a practice of charity, which may also reflect the way we treat others around us as well. This is something we tend to forget, especially in this pandemic, when we have too much time on our hands and we turn into ourselves.  

Winding down with our dogs on the couch is enough to calm our nerves after a long day at work or school. After a playful nibble, my dogs look at me, seemingly asking me as they tilt their heads, “Did you take care of yourself today?” – Rappler.com

Gabriela Veronica C. Tuazon hails from Bacolod City and graduated from the UST-Faculty of Medicine and Surgery. She is currently a medical intern at Makati Medical Center. She lives with her dogs Solo, Obi, Chewy, and Snow.