I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “all dogs go to heaven”. I mean, duh, where else would they go? There is something incredibly significant about the unconditional love our four legged friends can teach us. Growing up as a Syrian person living in America, I never understood the attachment Americans had with their dogs until I got one myself. I'm sure I speak for most foreign people when I say that dogs are not held in the same regard in our home countries. Our families never understood their value. As a psychologist though, it’d be utter negligence not to give dogs their due when it comes to emotional support within a family unit.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately but we‘re losing a very precious member of our extended family and I can’t think of a better way to honor her than to discuss the very large impact she’s had on so many lives.
I have this theory that a dog absorbs all the emotion- both negative and positive- that their owner doesn’t otherwise overtly express. They are our “hurt locker” for a lack of a better term. Over the course of a person’s life, they will experience the ebb and flows that is the human journey with one constant: the unconditional love of a dog. You’ll know what to expect coming home to your dog (for the most part). Dogs don’t need a reason to love, like a cat does, they just do. This is not a jab at cats, I'm sure they are lovable in their own right.
So what does the love of a doggo mean for the family unit? Well, let’s talk science for a second. In recent years, there has been an emphasis in the psych world of animal assisted therapies to help clients deal with a multitude of various struggles including improving self-esteem, help for anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, and developing social skills. in fact, a new study has shown a significant drop in stress hormones and adrenaline and an increase in health and social inducing hormones such as oxytocin, dopamine and endorphins after 20 minutes with a therapy dog.
To be completely honest with you, my theory is not nearly nuanced enough to explain why dogs are so integral to the emotional health of the family unit but the science corroborates it so we’re just gonna roll with it. My point is, we just don’t give dogs the credit they deserve. We love them but we don’t know why we should.
Dogs go to heaven because they deserve to spend every day of eternity running through the fields of the Garden. Drinking water from the rivers of life. They are the epitome of strength and resiliency. When they’re hurt they retreat to the corner and lick their wounds until they’re ready to bring you their good energy. They’d rather do that than hurt you with their hurt. When you’re sad, they feel it without words. They feel things fully. Their aggression is exasperated when threatened and their love is expansive when happy.
Spiritually, dogs are a symbol of loyalty, unconditional love, and protection. Lastly, but not less important, the dog symbolizes playfulness. It will always remind people of the importance of enjoying life. This is what dogs are to us. They access and tap into a part of our inner child that most adults lock away with lock and key. Dogs are an excuse to allow our joy to overflow like a five year old with no restrictions and reservations. No social constructs telling us to "act like an adult". Dogs don't care, they just want to play.
We should really try to learn a couple things from our angel dogs.
In Loving Memory of Sandy Wakim 💗🐶