Ways to Improve the Quality of Life of Your Dog by: K. Bollag
K. Bollag currently attending Yale University is one of our finalists for the wireless dog fence 2nd annual scholarship. Here is her essay:
In my favorite photograph from my early childhood I am reading to my best friend. “Reading” for the three-year-old me was looking at the pictures in the book and inventing my own story, but I must have been doing a decent job, as my friend looks on enraptured while I point at a particularly exciting image. My friend seems very content, and perhaps he is even smiling with his tongue lolling out. His ears are perked upward in an expression of alertness, and his dog eyes hold that glow of affection that only animals can achieve. I have shared my triumphs and my failures with my dogs over the years, family members in whom I know I have an irrevocable promise of unconditional love. Just as my pets have looked out for me, I know it is my responsibility to look out for them too.
When we decide to acquire a canine companion, we are truly undertaking a huge commitment by welcoming into the household an individual that will be almost as demanding as a new baby. This dog can be our best friend and greatest ally through thick and thin, but we must also acknowledge that as the owner of that dog, we are the dog’s sole benefactor. That dog relies on us for its health and its happiness. In return for the dog’s unconditional love, we have to make sure the dog has a wonderful life.
The most obvious part of taking care of a dog is the responsibility of feeding the animal. However, this aspect of care is much more complicated than many people might assume. The owner must negotiate a thin line in order to provide exactly the right amount of food. Everyone recognizes that not feeding a dog enough is abuse. But many do not realize that overfeeding a dog can also be a form of abuse, unwitting as it may be. Of course a dog will be head-over-heels happy if someone gives it a treat, and treats are excellent on a very occasional basis. However, too many treats lead to obesity which can cause many problems for the dog, currently or in the future. An overweight dog is more likely to have arthritis issues, diabetes, and heart disease, just to name a few. Overall, the dog is much more likely to have a lower quality and shorter lifespan. Therefore, just as a parent would never constantly feed a child candy, a dog owner can do the dog a favor by cutting back on the number of treats and making sure that the dog is eating healthy portions. A dog with a proper weight will have a much higher quality of life in the long run even if that dog does not get as many treats as it might think it wants in the short term.
Another responsibility of an owner is providing for the exercise of the dog. Dogs are not meant simply to sleep around inside all day. Every healthy dog would much rather be doing something active for at least a small portion of the day, even if this activity is self-guided when the dog is outside on its own. Owners should take their dogs for walks on a regular basis. Also, most dogs enjoy being outside to soak up the sun and smell all of the scents of the outdoors. Providing for some means of this outside activity is an essential aspect of the care of a dog.
As any prospective dog owner must know, having a canine companion comes with costs, and veterinary bills are one of these expenses. Many people do not realize that a career as a veterinarian does not come with a relatively large income; the local veterinarian is not trying to charge exorbitantly, as they are only in the profession for the love of the animals. Veterinarians have studied in school for many years in order to understand the workings of the animal body, so they know what is best for the animals. Dog owners have a responsibility to take their dogs to the veterinarian in order to ensure that the animal is fully vaccinated and that the animal is as healthy as it possibly can be. Only when a dog is completely healthy will its life quality be maximized.
While attention to food, exercise, and veterinary care is absolutely essential to the well-being of a dog, the most important aspect of owning a happy dog is attention to the animal itself. What is the point of owning a dog if the owner never spends time with it? A dog will love with all its being, only with the desire of being loved back. Attention to the dog encompasses all of the previously-mentioned categories. Attention means knowing what the dog’s favorite foods, toys, and activities are. Attention means taking the dog for walks and doing what the dog will enjoy. Attention means including the dog in any activity or on any trip that is dog-friendly. Attention means bestowing the dog with as much love as it gives. A dog is a member of the family, not some accessory to be flourished only when it suits the owner. A dog’s quality of life will only be the best it can be if the dog receives as much attention as it wants and deserves from the owner.
Straight out of an inspirational dog quote book is the saying “A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than it loves itself.” But the truth of this statement resonates. The responsibilities that come with a dog abound, but any true dog lover will understand why a dog owner would put forth so much effort and money for an animal, and this quote sums it up. A dog provides the love that a human being cannot, and for that, its love is priceless. The least a dog owner can do is provide for the dog and ensure that the dog has the best quality of life possible with attention to food, exercise, veterinary care, and to the dog itself.