Features

A New Leash of Life

Felicity King uncovers the key to happiness- it's dogs!

Have any of you ever been in Holland and Barrett? You know, the health food shop that looks more like a supermarket for rabbits. I mean, I don’t go in there much, it looks like it should be shrunk down, given a bunny-eared shaped doorway and put underground for our fluffy tailed friends. However, I ventured in the other day. I was shocked. There, within its raisin and dried apricot clad walls, lay, according to the price tags at least, the key to good health, well-being and happiness. I found it sad that the key to such things seemed to lie entirely within a flimsy cardboard box of green tea, so I went away to do some research, in the hope the answer lay a lot further away from muesli and a lot closer to cheese. It seems that the secret to long life, happiness and wellbeing is not actually all about eating rabbit food. In fact, I’d say it has a lot more to do with eating cake. It is also, however, to do with having a dog.

I’m going to talk about dogs. Some of you will already be rolling up your copy of The Founder and using it to beat students aside as you tear across campus, heading, god knows where, in a vain attempt to get away from the article that you still hold in your hand. I appreciate that we’re not all dog people, I wish you well on your run and I remind you that The Founder can be recycled; and, if you can bear hold on to my ‘ode to a dog’ for a bit longer (I promise you won’t catch anything) there are recycling bins available on campus for you to put it in.

A dog is the kindest mirror you can have. The version of yourself reflected back by your dog is flawless. Dogs love us unconditionally, follow us around devotedly, (and often awkwardly, my dog used to follow me everywhere, even into the toilet). The benefit this kind of companionship and love has on people is both obvious and proven. Studies have even shown (this is starting to sound a bit like a psychology essay, I apologise) that elderly people are less likely to enter a residential home if they have a dog. Even if it does become necessary for them to move into care, dogs are regular visitors to residential homes and are acknowledged as being invaluably therapeutic. It’s not just the elderly that should start buying dogs en masse though. Dog owners of any age have on average fewer GP visits and fewer prescriptions as compared to their canine-less counterparts. Imagine that, all this time you’ve been depriving yourself of cheesecake and eating carrot sticks, when all you had to do to make your life healthier was kidnap your neighbour’s terrier every time you had pizza.

It’s not just your health that a dog will improve; dogs are also the answer to a lot of social problems. David Cameron can suggest we hug hoodies, pick up chewing gum and use our money to support local businesses- while he uses his to buy a fifth house in which to store his overflow gold and ponies- but he’s got it wrong. We should just get dogs. How many have you stopped in front of a random stranger, tickled their belly and called them cute? If you answer that question with anything more than once a year, stop reading my article at once and lock yourself away until you’ve learnt to be more socially aware please. We would never do that and yet we do it all the time to random strangers’ dogs. Having dogs encourages people to get out and about, and it encourages neighbours to get to know each other. It gives communities, streets and housing estates a mutual bond. You might have come from different countries, you might do different jobs, but you’ve both picked up poo with a poop-a-scoop so you’re friends now.

It didn’t matter how much I was told sprouts, running up hills, or those weird Yakult things, were good for me, I still didn’t like them. Just because dogs are good for you doesn’t mean the non-dog lovers out there are suddenly going to be rushing down to the park with a dog biscuit and a butterfly net in the hope of stealing one away. I can’t make you love dogs but I can make you appreciate them. My dog, Russet, died last week, and so I am going to take advantage of my power as Features Editor to make sure his name appears in print. RUSSET. There we go, he’s achieved more than a lot of people, he’s got his name in a newspaper, and that’s because, unlike a lot of people, he was always kind, devotedly loyal and never ate the last Jaffa Cake. I mean, as a dog I appreciate there wasn’t much opportunity for him to ever do that, but you could just tell, you know, he wasn’t the type.

Okay, I’ll stop now. I’ve indulged my misery for once and as of next issue I assure you that Felicity King will be back in full humour style and no longer using her column to outlet her grief and depress her readers. Before I go though, think about this: my darling dog has gone, but he’s gone safe in the knowledge that in the 16 years he was on this planet he never once intentionally caused anybody any harm or upset. How many of us are going to die being able to say the same thing?

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