I was reminded last week of the value of pet therapy when I lost my sweet labradoodle Edith (Edie). What was to have been surgery to remove some kind of blockage in her stomach, which we all decided was a sock, turned into an inoperable condition from which she could not recover.
I haven’t cried that hard in years, and it reminded me just how much of a family member Edie was. She was my girl, my buddy, my confidant. And more than anything she was the source of unconditional love of the kind you only get from your mother — if you were lucky.
I have always had dogs, both growing up and in my adult life. My Irish Setter Erin lived with me through my 20s and was such a great guard dog that the plumber came, fixed the sink and didn’t know there was a dog in the house until the plumber came out from under the sink and met Erin eye level for a big sloppy kiss. I guess that was her way of saying, “I got my eye on you.”
I rescued Edie three years ago as a 1-year-old who was full of life and fun. She had never been abused and was ready to get on with the business of living. I found out she was an F1 labradoodle at the dog park when one of the folks in the casual discussion group I was standing in asked me what kind of dog she was.
I said she was a labradoodle. Well, he snorted, “I don’t think so,”as he pointed toward a huge black dog (His). “That’s a labradoodle.” OK, so what, I thought, I really don’t care. That’s what they said she was on the site where I found her. I learned later that he had a designer labradoodle, and I had the first iteration, meaning one or the other of Edie’s parents was a poodle and the other a Labrador. Edie could care less. She just wanted to win the ongoing dog chase where all the dogs chased her. She would collapse on the back seat on the way home, deliriously happy that once again she had outrun the crowd.
The studies that have come out on the power of our animal friends have been compelling evidence that we all need one. Heart attack patients who owned pets lived longer than those who didn’t, petting your dog lowers your blood pressure and increases oxytocin.
Dogs are helping with veterans who have PTSD and doing lots of other good stuff that you can read about at the Research Center for Human/Animal Interaction. And anyone who has loved a dog will tell you that they know when you are upset.
Edie was not allowed on the bed, but on those nights when I was struggling with something, I could always count on turning over to see her big brown eyes looking at me. “It’s OK, Mom, I am here. Go back to sleep,” they said. And I did.
Rest in Peace, Edie.