There are so many emotional benefits of having a dog, especially during or after divorce, and that’s what I’d like to share in this article.
Believe me when I tell you that I was never a dog person. I didn’t dislike dogs, but other than a casual “courtesy pet” when I saw my friends’ dogs, I never really thought twice about it. A dog always seemed to be too much work, a lot of effort, poop in the house, and licking their owners in places that seemed kind of gross to me at the time.
In 2017, my life changed when I saw my kids were getting older, weren’t around that much, and I got an itch to get a dog. It didn’t happen overnight, but I started noticing dogs and how sweet and kind they were, and I felt a sort of loneliness in my house that I thought could possibly be soothed by an animal.
So, I started the search and a few months later ended up with the dog who is now the love of my life. Like a Prince Charming, from the minute I met him, I was in love and I remain that way to this day.
He has had accidents in the house (both poop and pee), and he’s thrown up and ruined multiple carpets, but honestly, that’s the only thing. The good that he has brought into our house and into my life and my heart is beyond so much more valuable than rugs.
He is there for me in good times and bad, and just to give you an example, when I shattered my wrist a few years ago, the day I got home from the hospital, my dog sat at the edge of the couch, at my feet, and never left my side for three days. He is the loyalist, most loving creature and I appreciate every inch of his 18 inch body!
Looking back, I think that if you are considering getting a dog, it has to be the right time in your life. For example, if you just started a new job, that might not be the best time. But I think when I was going through a divorce, I could have truly benefited from getting a dog, so if you are newly separated, think about it. Again, it has to feel right, and getting a new dog is a lot of work, but I know for myself, it would have helped me tremendously in coping with divorce.
So, what are the emotional benefits of having a dog during or after divorce?
Lisa Kaplin is a North Shore based psychologist and life coach, who also happens to be a dog owner. Kaplin said that so many of her clients—particularly those who are going through a divorce or becoming empty nesters have asked her, “What do you think about me getting a dog?”
“I tell them, ‘Don’t get a pet to fill a need. Get one because you want a mutual relationship,’” said Kaplin, who with her husband and kids got their goldendoodle, Ginger 10 years ago. “You have to be there for the dog as much as the dog is there for you.”
Kaplin, who has been a life coach for several years and a psychologist for 17, said that the wrong reason for getting a dog is because you think the dog will fix your life problems, and that you won’t be sad and lonely anymore. The right reason: because you might enjoy the companionship and the emotional investment that an animal requires.
So, what does Fido bring to the table? Kaplin and I came up with a few emotional benefits of having a dog during or after divorce:
1. Humor and energy.
A dog brings out the playful side of everyone. We’re all so busy and serious and stressed, especially during a divorce, and dogs help us forget about things for a little while. They do things that make you laugh out loud, that make you giggle and smile and that make you feel warm and youthful and lighthearted. It could help balance the bad feelings of what’s going on in the divorce.
2. No judgement.
The dog loves everybody. He or she doesn’t take sides. When things in the family get rough, the dog is there to support everybody. Your furry guy is a neutral party. Your dog also won’t judge you if you are dating someone who isn’t right for you and you know it but you still do it, or if you tell him how much you can’t stand your ex, or if you eat an entire carton of Ben and Jerry’s in one sitting.
3. A dog can teach us how to caring for the animal, and how to be sensitive to and aware of the needs and feelings of others.
A pet can also teach us how to take responsibility for him or her. This is especially important for kids, who are experiencing the discipline needed to feed, walk, and even play with the dog. Believe me when I tell you that my dog has made me such a better person. I love who I am around my dog: warm and kind and thoughtful and attentive to his needs. That in and of itself makes me so happy. During a divorce, it’s sometimes hard to like yourself. Trust me, with a dog, you will.
There is so much chaos and anxiety and fear during a divorce, but also just in everyday life. Petting a dog can feel like you just slipped a Xanie! It’s comforting and warm and kind the energy immediately changes. This is not only great for you, but for your kids, as well.
5. Unconditional love.
Here you are with someone in the world who loves you no matter what. A dog doesn’t love you because of the way you look or what you can do for him or her. A dog’s love is just simple love. You walk in the door and the dog is happy to see you. Who doesn’t need that extra love in life, and for sure, in divorce? The dog’s unconditional love is also a reminder to us as humans, and for sure as mothers about the beauty of loving your family no matter what.
6. Drama-free love.
Anyone who has ever been divorced will tell you there’s a lot of drama. With dogs, there is no drama. Kaplin calls a dog’s love “uncomplicated love. You’re never going to have an argument with your dog and you never have to worry about what he or she is thinking, that you might have said something wrong or that the dog has an issue with you. A dog loves you. That’s it. It’s pretty simple.
People say getting a puppy or a dog is like having a baby. No offense to pet owners who have never had kids, but I totally disagree. Granted, a puppy is dependent on us for everything and crazy with excitement when we walk in the door. But what I see happening is that we are getting this gift of tremendous warmth and love in our home, and we aren’t having to get up and feed and change him every three hours! Don’t get me wrong, I loved having babies, but once the dog gets to be a few months old, or gets used to living with you, its pretty easy and pretty doggone sweet.