National Dog Day: The Human Animal Bond


August 26 is National Dog Day, celebrating all dogs – worldwide, regardless of breed or mix.

Dr. Jane Goodall has told me the most special creatures on earth aren’t chimpanzees and definitely not humans, they’re dogs.

Dogs ‘get us.’ Smart as we may be, the truth is that you’ll never understand y0ur dog as well as your dog understands you.

No one forces us to live with dogs. So why do we? This is something which the Hunan Animal Bond Association investigates and celebrates.

Having a dog or dogs means you need to care for them, spend time with them, and spend money (for food, toys and veterinary care). And so many people with one dog, actually have more than one. And some people must agree, since 471 million dogs are kept as pets worldwide.

We’re hardwired to be connected with dogs, as we literally evolved with dogs. On a day to day basis, they make us feel good (literally hormones like oxytocin and serotonin inflate compared to those without dogs). Also, the mere motion of petting dogs is beneficial for cardiac health, and our blood pressure. However, this simple description only touches the surface of what we know, nevermind what we don’t know.

While the unromantic reality is that dogs may not always love us unconditionally, they arguably are better at unconditional love compared to people. Of course, dogs risk their lives for ours – verified stories (complete with video) of dogs running into burning buildings to rescue people or military working dogs risking their lives (and sometimes losing their lives) to save their human partner .

Dogs are so bonded and well-equipped to do so, they can alert if a woman is pregnant or a person has cancer.

Years ago, before we knew what seizure alert dogs might be trained for, a colleague was telling me that his own dog was ill-mannered, and sometimes caused seizures when he was out walking by acting crazy or just sitting and refusing to walk. He finally figured that this dog was actually warning him that a seizure is about to happen, perhaps the first ‘official’ seizure alert dog.

Vicki Santo of the Ron and Vicki Santo Diabetic Alert Dog Foundation tells the story of how one day baseball Hall of Famer Ron Santo’s dog – who he thought he never bonded with – came running into the kitchen barking. Vicki though the dog wanted to go out or was hungry. But when she opened the door, he wouldn’t leave and when offered food, he didn’t eat. It turned out the dog was saying – just like in the Lassie movies – “follow me.” Vicki did follow the dog to find her husband had suffered a diabetic crash. She was told the dog saved Ron’s life. It’s what dogs do.

An  entire description of what dogs do would fill a book – certainly our appreciation should be unlimited for the joy they offer.