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Imagine not being able to reach a light switch, open a door, or reach the keys you dropped on the floor. Every day, many people with disabilities use service dogs to function independently and complete simple daily activities such as these that others take for granted. It is estimated that there are between 100,000-200,000 service dogs in the United States assisting people with disabilities every day.

Not only can service dogs assist in daily activities to make their physical lives easier, but dogs can also boost confidence, feelings of self-sufficiency and responsibility. People with disabilities are not the only ones that dogs are helping. Research suggests owning a dog provides numerous health benefits such a lowering blood pressure to easing anxiety and also provides social support by encouraging social interactions and reducing feelings of isolation and loneliness.

“Having a dog as a companion does many wonderful things for people, especially those in need of comfort,” said Anne Causey, a local therapist in the Houston metro area. “Dogs are the only non-primate animal to look people in the eyes. When we experience eye contact, even with dogs, bonding hormones get released. This is one reason why dogs are great companions and therapy animals.”

A dog’s unconditional love can help people feel less isolated and alone. Research has shown that people with suicidal thoughts are less likely to act on them if they have a dog to care for by giving them a sense of purpose and responsibility. “Dogs respond to our emotions,” said Causey. “When you are stressed, your dog can pick up on what you are feeling and show signs of stress too. When you soothe your pet, you end up calming yourself as well. This is important because some people find it hard to take care of themselves emotionally, but are readily able to comfort others, especially their dog.”

The human-dog bond promotes many physical, emotional, and social benefits. It’s no wonder that they are man’s best friend and to honor them, National Dog Day is celebrated. It is a day that honors family dogs, companion dogs, therapy dogs, and law enforcement dogs who all work selflessly to save lives, keep us safe and bring comfort.

Anne Causey, M.A., LPC, is a licensed professional therapist based in The Woodlands who provides a safe and warm environment for individuals, couples and families to address areas of challenge or crisis in their lives. For more information concerning therapies for a host of mental and emotional conditions, call her at 832 492 5068.

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