3 Ways A Dog Can Happy Up Your Military Life

IMG_5201_opt

Happy people are connected to other people. But if you ask me, happy military people are connected to their dogs, too. In a military family, dogs may have the ability to shape your habits during deployment and PCS so that you are less vulnerable to feeling depressed, disenfranchised and just down in the dumps.

If you are thinking of getting a dog, take this quiz to find out if you are ready. If you already have a dog, try one of these three suggestions from the experts:

Dog Meet Neighbors. Neighbors Meet Me.  In this post Getting connected | This Emotional Life Psychologists Marty Seligman and Christopher Peterman say that getting connected to other people is a key part of being happy.

“You can take steps to increase your connections with others. Once you do, you’re likely to feel happier, which in turn makes it easier to make more friends, and then you’re experiencing the “upward spiral” of positive emotions and increased happiness.”

One of their practical suggestions is to take your dog for a walk every day because a regular walk gets you out there with all the neighbors … and their dogs. Taking my dog Wilkes around the block every day has led to meeting an adorable older couple in my neighborhood with their fierce little Corgi. It has led to dozens of conversations about peonies and roses and tomatoes with the other gardeners in my area. And the cuteness of my dog has distracted my crazy neighbor from twitting me on the willfulness of my children and my inconsiderate Bon Jovi blastathon.

 Let Your Dog Walk Out Your Depression.  A dog that roots around in the refrigerator for garlic olives and bleu cheese and uses your bed as a potty break might depress anyone. Cesar Milan, The Dog Whisperer, says that the first key to having a well-behaved dog is to walk that dog for a minimum of 45 minutes a day. Wait! Don’t stop reading! I know you don’t have 45 minutes a day to walk a dog—especially if you have small children in the house and your service member is working killer hours. I know that walking a dog with a toddler on a Big Wheel and a baby in a stroller is the kind of skill only the rare spouse can achieve. My adaptation of this when my youngest is home is to do laps around the yard with the dog. I don’t do 45 minutes worth, but I find that the act of putting the dog on the leash makes Wilkes so happy. It also gives me the break I need to clear my head and feel better fast.

Look Deep Into These Doggie Eyes.  Dogs can actually be an excellent way to calm down and refocus. In Five Good Minutes in the Evening, authors Jeffrey Brantley and Wendy Millstine say that even the busiest person can live each day better with the five-minute mindfulness exercises. I’m not too good at mindfulness, but the exercise that works for me is the one in which you pay attention to the pet who loves you.

“Notice the way your pet moves, hear the sounds they make, feel the texture of their fur, gaze at their face and into their eyes. Be open to the give and take.  Allow yourself to receive the gifts of love, companionship and belonging.”

I do this nearly every time I walk in the door after work. Instead of the crazy jumping I used to get from my dog, he chills. I chill. And my military life with this blessed dog in tow is just a little bit better.

 

 

 

 

About the Author

Jacey Eckhart
Jacey Eckhart is the former Director of Spouse and Family Programs for Military.com. Since 1996, Eckhart’s take on military families has been featured in her syndicated column, her book The Homefront Club, and her award winning CDs These Boots and I Married a Spartan?? Most recently she has been featured as a military family subject matter expert on NBC Dateline, CBS morning news, CNN, NPR and the New York Times. Eckhart is an Air Force brat, a Navy wife and an Army mom. Find her at JaceyEckhart.net.
  • Brandy

    My dog was a huge help with DH last deployment. She licked away my tears and was a great cuddler. I wonderful companion. I don’t know what I would have did without her!

  • jacey_eckhart

    I know what you mean. When my husband is at sea, my dog sticks a little closer. He will even peer over the edge of the bed at me to check me in the dark. Such a cutie!

  • Vonnie

    We had a wonderful border collie that we had to put to sleep last fall after 14 1/2 years and she has left a huge hole in our household. She was the best company when my hubby was deployed or TDY and she helped me keep a more normal schedule since we always walked 2-3 times a day. She became a pro at moving and was one of the most well-traveled dogs around as she shared eight duty stations with us (including two overseas)! One of the really great things about having a dog is that at every new duty station, I met our neighbors quickly because we were always out walking or playing. It makes the transition to a new home so much easier when you meet your neighbors and I have found that fellow pet owners are usually more than willing to strike up a conversation with the “new” person! I am glad that you posted the info about taking a quiz to see if you are ready for a pet. Too many people get pets for the wrong reasons and then the pets suffer the consequences. People need to remember that a commitment to a pet is as serious as a commitment to a new child. The love a pet can bring to your family is a treasured gift!

  • The bottom line is there’s nothing quite like the unconditional affection a loyal dog gives. It’s more than enough to brighten up even the most battle-hardened military man.