BioStar blog author Buckaroo gives his own expert canine take on the healing power of dogs … from first-hand experience:
A few weeks ago, my Aussie Tribe and I were out on a walk with the humans. We had just been to the pond, and were crossing the big pasture when Kemosabe invited me to take a run with him up into the woods. We sprinted up another hill and I chased him into the forest.
Then we heard the sound of our human calling us.
Kemosabe said, “I’ll race you back”.
We took off, streaking down the hill like black bullets. As we neared the humans, I was really gaining on Kemosabe. Several yards from where the humans were standing, Kemosabe body-blocked me and I crashed into….my human.
She fell like a pine tree in a hard wind, one leg in a weirdly contorted position. She started to cry: “Straighten my leg! Straighten my leg!”
Thunderbear and I tried to help, but it was Peter who straightened her leg out. Then she stopped crying and just moaned.
“I’ll get the crutches,” Peter said, and he called the Aussie Tribe and we followed him up through the orchard to the house. When he opened the door to let us in, I had second thoughts: my human was out there lying in the pasture, and I had to do something. So I did a quick 180, gave the proverbial finger-paw to Peter, and ran back through the orchard to my human.
What she needed was a good dose of oxytocin, a powerful hormone that acts as a neuromodulator in the brain. Studies have shown that oxytocin isn’t just a bonding molecule, or just the love hormone; it can also relieve pain and stress, and reduce inflammation. Oxytocin is released in both dogs and humans when both species interact through visual and physical contact. I lay down next to my human, pressed my body close and rested my head on her shoulder.
She began to pet me, and we lay there together on the ground until Peter came with the crutches. She sat up, and I sat up, and I studied her face for a few seconds to make sure she was okay. We canines can read humans as well as humans can read books. I stayed beside her and out of crutch range as she slowly made her way to the house, Peter on one side of her and me on the other. Once she was on the couch, knee elevated and packed in ice, I stayed on the floor beside her while Thunderbear wrapped himself around her feet, and Kemosabe periodically came over to lick her cheek. Spirit Dog chanted incantations in his sleep through snoring.
Of course I can’t say for sure that the ministrations of oxytocin and dog love from the Aussie Tribe were solely responsible for healing our human. But I do know that the healing power of dogs is for real, and that our biped companions can get better a lot faster with us canines around…despite what the cats say.