I am not really a morning person.
I hit snooze about three times. I check my email in bed and see if there is anything urgent I need to respond to. I hit snooze again. This repeats until I finally pull myself up and make it to the bathroom to brush my teeth.
Every single morning, when I return from the bathroom, I find my dog, Ruby, lying on the spot I just arose from with her head on my pillow, little spot stealer that she is. I am sure it is nice and warm and she looks super cute and cozy. How could I not just take a few moments and get back into bed to cuddle with her?
As soon I lie next to her, she asks, well, paws me, to lift the blanket up so she can slide under the covers. Once she is under, she curls herself up into the curves of my body. We just lie there cuddling and snuggling. My heart gets this full feeling from having her near me.
We start hearing the noises of the Indian village come alive. We hear the laborers are on their way to work. We hear the mule owners directing their packs. We hear a Tibetan man yelling, “Palay!” alerting everyone that fresh bread is available. We probably hear a few stray dogs bark, most likely at the stray bulls walking by them. Then inevitably, Ruby, my little prima donna, starts whining and demanding her breakfast. I get a couple paws in my face. The spell is broken. It is time to start my day. I am feeling content and loved. The potential stresses of the day subside.
Ruby has liked to sleep this way since she was a pup. When she was teeny tiny, she used to curl up in the crook of my neck or behind my knees if I was sleeping on my side. She was a sick little girl who had distemper (a deadly canine disease that attacks the nervous system) that left her with a chronic twitch. I think this closeness helped her sleep and feel safe as well as it controlled the twitching. Little did she know that it did the same for me—minus the twitching of course.
Ruby, the once dying Indian street pup, is now the biggest diva and possibly the funniest dog I have ever met. Along with sleeping in the crooks of my body she has taught herself to put herself in yoga positions that help control her twitching so she can relax. For instance, her favorite pose, and mine as well: Child’s pose.
And one I could never do—Eka Pada Sirsasana.
Now that she is a wiser, healthier and less twitchy four-and-a-half-year-old, the cuddling is usually just part of our morning routine and I treasure it.
After some research I was delighted to discover that it is a normal and a scientifically proven reaction to feel relaxed and happy while cuddling a dog. Especially one you love dearly:
“Alan Beck, Ph.D., director of the Center for the Human-Animal Bond at Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine and his co-researcher Aaron Katcher found in the early ’80s that when people interact with dogs, ‘you actually get a drop in blood pressure—a true relaxation response,”‘he says. More recently, researchers in Japan found that dog owners who were bonded to their pets experienced a spike in oxytocin—a neurotransmitter that helps us cope with stress—from simply meeting their dogs’ gazes.” ~ Sarah Klein, Huffington Post
Who knew that staring contests with our pups could spike our oxytocin levels? Petting, cuddling, or gazing into our dogs’ eyes will have the same effect on our mental health as practicing yoga or meditation in the morning. Well not exactly the same, but it does give us the sense of contentment, relaxation, trust, and a nice calm feeling as the “love hormone” should.
I am sure I am not the only one who does not get up early to meditate or practice yoga. I am also sure, that like me, many of you feel guilty for not doing so, in fact, if you are like me, you would welcome the opportunity for a little more time in bed.
So next time you want to get back into bed, grab your furry buddy and enjoy your stress-relieving, oxytocin-inducing, better-day-making, cuddle practice—guilt free.
Author: Deb Jarrett
Image: Author’s own
Editor: Katarina Tavčar