It’s a rare individual who can identify such a need in themselves. Usually when we find ourselves down in the dumps, our reaction is to want to crawl in a hole and block it with a big rock. We get immobilized and often our first reaction is to isolate—which is exactly the wrong thing to do. Sometimes we even strike out at those who extend a kind hand.
Well, you can’t reach the bottom of your hole until you quit digging. Busying yourself with finding new friends can be just the ticket for a ride to a new attitude. (Because if you think growing old alone is the way to go, you’re barking up the wrong tree. The science is in: loneliness kills seniors.)
There are lots of suggestions where to look for new friends, and how to find buddies, but I thought we might take a little time to talk about what kind of pals to make. I want to talk about some of my friends who have dogs and why they are such great people to know. I think the fact they have relationships with dogs was a great tip off they might make good acquaintances.
Ten Reasons Dog Owners Can Make Great Friends
1. Dog owners are active.
My friend Jean raises companion dogs. When morning comes, it doesn’t matter if she is tired or having a bad day or has the sniffles. All those excuses fall on deaf ears when those little upright ears and wagging tails are depending on her for their morning walk at the break of dawn.
And so when I see Jean, she is up and in a great mood, smiling because she’s happy at having seen the best part of the day with delightfully happy companions that love her more than anything. When they see her, their brains fill with the same chemical our brains did at the sight of our first teenage love interest. Or, for my more cynical friends, her dogs’ brains fill with the same chemical as if they had just done a line of cocaine.
2. Dog owners are social.
Studies reveal dog owners are far more extroverted on the whole than the rest of the population, so getting a positive reaction when you introduce yourself to them is almost assured.
3. To own a dog, you should be responsible.
Dogs have to be taken care of. Using my friend Jean again, because her dogs are companion dogs, they need extra care and training. If other companion dog trainers are going to be unavailable, they count on Jean to take care of their dogs, and likewise. Putting aside one’s own needs for those of others is a really attractive trait, and is one more reason dog owners make great friends.
4. Most good dog owners are conscientious.
I can’t say for sure if this is a trait that dogs bring about in their owners or whether people with dogs just happens to be dependable. But I do know this: My friends with dogs, most notably Jean, Marge, and Judy, worry about people, do kind things without any fanfare and go out of their way to not let people down. That’s a good quality to find in any friend.
5. Dog-Loving = Fun-Loving
Dogs exist pretty much in the here and now, not appearing to worry about where they’ve been or where they are going. Whatever smell is in the air is what is happening! When I go to play pickle ball, Marge’s dog Mala is waiting for a wedge of watermelon. (Just like puppy Calvin here.) Now that is fun loving! Most dog owners I know understand this and appreciate the difference between work and play, and enjoy spontaneous fun which makes them very entertaining friends.
So we’ve established that dog owners tend by and large to be conscientious, responsible, social, active, and fun-loving. If that’s not enough to convince you to choose a dog owner as your next new friend, here are five more great qualities shared by most dog owners:
6. People Walking A Dog Are Approachable.
If you see someone out and about with a dog, it’s easy to start a conversation. A recent survey found that 95% of respondents said they’d be more likely to approach a stranger who has a dog because they feel just a little less nervous about the whole affair.
7. Dog Owners are Empathic.
There is a thing called emotional contagion, where we respond to the emotions we see even when we don’t understand them. Dog owners have to do their fair share of mind reading, emotion detection, and mood assessment.
We all know that, despite the debate regarding emotion in animals, our pups experience and display a variety of valid feelings, and dog owners get in the habit of being sensitive to this. This makes them nice companions for humans as well—willing to tune in to and caring about your joys and worries expressed or otherwise.
8. Because they are so willing to show us their vulnerabilities, if you own a dog you have been shown how to forgive.
And, on a lighter note, this can be said of cat owners as well. Our friends from the animal world that we allow to share our lives and homes just don’t mean to do some of the things they do. (Well, okay, sometimes they do. Maybe we did need to be punished for leaving them at home without us.)
It’s like a grandchild, or a frat brother—sometimes messes just happen. You clean it up and move on. This is both a healthy and important attitude.
(An aside: I have a friend who had to leave her twin granddaughters with her husband for the morning. When she got home both the girls were running around without diapers and there were upside-down pie tins all over the house. The explanation? When it became necessary to change their diapers, Dempsey had simply removed the spoiled offenders and as the day had moved on, simply marked ‘accidents’ with the pie tins so Billie could take care of any ‘problems’ when she returned.)
9. Most dog owners are good companions.
The majority of dog owners find comfort in the companionship they have with their dogs and are open to friendship which may even lead to a relationship if that’s in the cards. (However, I do have one observation here: I have a good friend who is a life-long bachelor and has been content with the exclusive company of his various dogs for most of the time I’ve known him.) If one dog smells another dog on you they don’t get mad. They just think it’s interesting.
10. Loyalty is usually a trait you will often find in a good dog owner.
My friend Jean raises companion dogs and I don’t know if she taught them or they taught her, but you won’t find a more loyal, giving human on the planet than Jean. I think it’s because she feels undeserving of how much her dogs love her, but she shouldn’t.
She takes those dogs to schools and hospitals and every place where they will cheer people up and make the day brighter. Her friends count on her, her husband counts on her, and everywhere she goes people’s lives are better because of her loyalty and service.
For me, Jean embodies all the good qualities of dog owners, and is a great example of why if you are in the market for a new friend, you might want to look at the end of a dog leash.
In case it doesn’t go without saying, all these reasons apply even more if you’re a senior making new friends. Having animal lovers (and their animals) in your retirement life is a sure way to encourage all the above qualities in yourself. Talk about win-win!