How my dog Buddy saved a young girl

                A GIRL’S BEST FRIEND

Okay, so Buddy didn’t REALLY save anyone. But he has proven to be a girl’s best friend; here’s how.

A seven year old girl I’ll call Rachel came begrudgingly into my office for a visit, and she was so miffed at being there she wouldn’t shake my hand or tell me her name. She stomped into my room, sat on the loveseat, crossed her arms, and stuck out her chin as if to say, “Just try to make me talk!” That all changed the minute Buddy walked into the room.

Buddy is my new comfort retriever dog whose effect on kids is magical. He walked over to Rachel, put his face on her lap, and then slowly eased himself up until he was sitting right next to her. Rachel melted, started smiling, her anxiety and anger drained away. She spent the rest of the hour sharing openly, all the while petting her new friend.

Studies have demonstrated that when a dog was present at routine physicals at the doctor’s office, young children had lower blood pressure and less behavioral stress. Research has also shown that it only take 15–30 minutes with your pet to feel more relaxed and calm, as playing with your dog raises your brain’s levels of dopamine and serotonin. Therapists use dogs in their treatment because they seem to have a calming effect on both adults and children.

Campers ranging in age from 8-18 tell me that they often talk to their pets when they are upset, because animals listen and don’t interrupt like their parents do. They can trust sharing their deepest, darkest secrets because they know it won’t go anywhere and they feel unconditionally loved by their dogs. This even holds true for stuffed animals; many girls even go off to college with their favorite fluffy friends. Pets help kids not feel so lonely by providing companionship they can count on.

Kids who grow up with dogs have fewer allergies and are less likely to have eczema, get a boost in immunity, and have fewer sick days off from school. Kids with dogs spend more time doing moderate to vigorous physical activity than their peers without dogs. So what’s not to like?

Buddy has become an indispensable presence at my weekend retreats for girls in grade school through high school, and I’m excited for him to come to all of my camps this summer. Most girls love animals, and a mellow, loveable dog like mine puts girls at ease quickly even in new environments that could arouse anxiety. So if your kids have been pushing you to get a dog, I hope this information might sway you to cave in.

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