Dogs and family
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Fur-Babies Are What Make A Family Whole

The love I have for my dogs pales in comparison to how much they love me.

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Fur-Babies Are What Make A Family Whole
Abigail Millsap

I was born into a family that has always had at least one dog. During the best of times, we would have 4 or more, depending on who was where at the time. To this day, I can not sleep unless I have an animal laying on me at night.

Growing up, we did not distinguish between "dog" and "family member" because there was no difference for us. Dogs were simply souls wrapped in fur and were much more prone to be in a good mood at the end of a long day.

When we humans would stumble out of the car and drag our tired bodies to the mailbox to see if Ed McMahon had finally put the check in the mail, our fur babies were waiting and watching patiently. Nothing makes coming home better than seeing the silhouette of a dog and the wagging tail behind them in the window.


photo by: Abigail Millsap

When our eyes meet, and I say, "There's my baby!" as I walk up the driveway I know the gentle soul on the other side of the glass is saying, "Where have you been all day! I have been waiting forever!" I am utterly unashamed in my devotion to my animals. My affection for them does not allow for distinctions such as a category like "pet" or "companion animal". They are my children. They are my heart covered in fur and paws.


photo by: Abigail Millsap

These intense feelings of love are not reserved only for humans. Researchers now know that oxytocin, the hormone that allows humans to feel unconditional love also increases in our canine "fur babies" when they stare back at us with love in their eyes. Some scientists attribute the bond some humans feel with their pets to oxytocin which also plays a powerful role in helping mothers bond with their infants.

So, are dogs just happy-go-lucky all the time? Do they respond differently to their owners? This theory was put to the test in a study done by the University of Tokyo and Duke University where dogs and their owners were put in a room and after watching interactions and eye contact, oxytocin levels were higher in urine samples in both owner and dog. Dogs do respond differently to their owners and vice versa. The proof is in their pee!

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If the eyes are the windows to the soul, then I would like to nominate our dearly missed Golden Retriever, Yogi as the most soulful creature I have had the honor of sharing my life with. This distinction is not to say that any of the others were less loving or devoted, but Yogi was a next level kind of guy.

Photo by: Fred Sharpe, Jr.

Golden Retrievers are a favorite worldwide because of their unabashed trust and adoration. They are seriously sweet spirits. There was not a second spent with him that he was not treated like royalty. I truly believe Yogi was a gift from God for my mom and dad.

He was the reason my dad got up early every morning, shared his Frosted Mini-Wheats with him and together, they would bring my mom coffee in bed every morning. Despite getting his teeth brushed every single day, he forever had stinky breath. It didn't matter. We grinned and bared it because all he desired was to be close to us and share his love. Yogi was so patient with us, even when we had the brilliant idea to "groom" his massive brilliant fur as an afternoon "group craft project". We adored the final outcome, which was as close to a male lion on the African savannah as we could get. Again, Yogi didn't seem to mind as long as he was being touched and given lots of love and kisses.

Photo by: Fred Sharpe, Jr.

Now that Yogi has crossed over Rainbow Bridge and joined the pack of all the other dogs we have loved, he is missed greatly. My mom and Dad still say goodnight to all the pictures of the dogs and they have no the intention of moving his doggie bed that he slept on right beside my dad every night. It feels like a form of comfort for them, and to be honest, me as well.

There is no doubt in my mind that my love and affection for animals and especially when it comes to understanding the responsibility of bringing another living being into our family and the lifetime commitment that is needed was instilled in me by my parents. I try to tell them often how much this gift of love means to me, but it is hard when you feel as if half of your heart is now in another place. We often joke about getting older and when the first one of us "crosses over" that person is the lucky one that gets the first round of puppy kisses and slobbery tennis balls that they have been so patiently waiting under the big oak tree in Doggie Heaven.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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