When Longfellow wrote “Into each life some rain must fall,” I don’t know that he had dogs in mind, but there’s no doubt that the tough times in life impact our dogs. Death, hospitalization, divorce, moving, children moving to college, and more of life’s challenges affect our four-legged family members. In our house, our recent loss of Irie has affected us all deeply; Tiki has grieved right along with us.
We’ve been working hard this week to cheer up Tiki who, although she is eating and walking great, is depressed, lethargic and clingy, following us from room to room. Here’s what we’ve been doing to bring some cheer back into Tiki’s life–and our own.
Stick to Your Schedule
Dogs thrive on a schedule. As much as possible, stick to your regular, everyday schedule: waking and bedtime hours, feeding times, and dog walking times. Every day, we get up and do a 45-minute dog walk then return home for breakfast. During the day, we’re home working (and Tiki’s napping, part of the time) then at 5 p.m. we head out for a 30-minute dog walk followed by her dinner, just as we’ve always done.
Put on a Happy Face
Did you know that it has been scientifically proven that smiling–even when that smile is forced–helps you feel better? The act of smiling helps release dopamine and serotonin which can reduce stress and depression. And smiling around your dog will make your dog feel better as well. In times of great sadness, after the initial shock of grief, try to take your sadness out of your dog’s sight, putting on a smiling face when you return. Our dogs watch our moods and often mirror our own feelings–so smile, talk in your upbeat, dog training voice, and see if you can help turn your dog’s mood around by at least appearing to be happier yourself.
As I mentioned, we do two dog walks a day but I’m trying to squeeze in a mid-day session as well. The weather’s pleasant right now and a lunch walk gets Tiki up and moving–and the extra exercise cheers everyone.
Enjoy an Outing to a New Destination
When a trip out of the house feels like it’s falling frighteningly close to a trip down memory lane, plan an all-new outing. Last week, we took Tiki to two new parks that we’d never visited. It was exciting for her to see some new sights, and we weren’t bogged down in sad memories that would have reflected back to her.
Take Time for a Treat
We all know that, in sad times, a special treat can help lift our moods–and that goes for our dogs, too. I carry treats on our dog walks and in my pockets in the house as well–and, sometimes when I see Tiki looking sad, I give her a treat…just because.
Get Out and Visit Friends
Tiki is such a social dog, and getting out to see friends and neighbors–both human and canine–has really brightened her week. During sad times, it’s often all-too-easy to shut ourselves off from the outside world, but getting out helps our dogs feel that all’s right, if only for a few minutes or hours.
Tough times in life are inevitable. But it’s vital to help your dog handle those times because, well, that’s what best friends are for. Help your dog get through life’s difficult periods, and you may find that you are aided as well. Cheering up our dogs can help us all remember, as Longfellow wrote:
Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining…