Puppy love for a happier life

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, the time of year to celebrate love and remember loved ones.

I just received a card from my sis with pictures of her babies. They all had new collars and were fluffy and groomed. As you probably guessed, her babies are dogs. Many dog owners, myself included, view their dogs as part of their family.

Recent studies done by psychologists at Massachusetts General Hospital indicate that differences in brain activity occur when women viewed pictures of their dogs, their own children and also unfamiliar dogs and children. The findings suggest that the bond between humans and dogs stimulates the same brain centers as the bond between a mother and her child.

Earlier research also supports this because of hormonal changes noted when people interact with dogs. Oxytocin, a hormone associated with social interactions and affection, is sometimes referred to as the “love hormone.” Oxytocin levels rose in humans when they engaged in friendly interactions with their dogs, which is a clear physiological sign of affection.

Dogs are quite good at reading human emotions, and a new study sheds light on how dogs monitor the moods of people. Using MRI scanners, researchers were able to identify the area in human and dog brains that processes sounds. It came as no surprise that both dogs and humans responded when they heard sounds made by their own species. The most amazing part of the study was the same part of the brain was active in both dog and humans.

The results provide evidence that the brains of dogs are tuned to respond to the emotional state of both species. The fact that dogs respond so well to human emotion may be the results of selective breeding of canines over the eons.

Dogs who responded well to our emotional states would be preferred as companions and would get better care. Eventually, these dogs would be bred more frequently in hopes of producing dogs who are sensitive to our needs. Over time, dogs might have ended up with brains that are genetically tuned to read our moods.

I know that my dogs have been able to read my moods, and I have noticed them showing empathy for me. I remember the afternoon I came home from the hospital after my knee replacement. Watson came over and put his head in my lap and then licked my hand. It was such a tender gesture that I instantly feet better.

There is a general belief that a dog’s brain is similar to that of a two-or three-year-old child’s. So, a dog’s emotional responses to show empathy and understanding are much the same as a young child’s. It appears we have bred them to show empathy and sympathy, which is a desire to comfort others in distress.

I always knew that love made the world go round, and now I realize that puppy love actually makes you happier and healthier. Check CAPS to meet the love of your life.

CAPS News and Events:

CAPS will be at Walmart tomorrow with our Kissin’ Booth and the adorable Ki. It’s Valentine’s Day and Ki would love to be your Valentine. Come by and get a kiss from Ki.

CAPS has new designs of hoodies, shirts and other items for your Valentine.

Flower Tree Nursery is raffling a 15-gallon Prairie-Fire crab apple tree. The raffle tickets are available at Flower Tree, and they are $1 for one ticket and $5 for six tickets. Be sure to get your tickets soon. The drawing date will be announced later, and the winner doesn’t have to be present to win.

Be sure to mark Saturday, May 9, on your calendars for our annual Bark in the Park 5K walk/run. Bark in the Park will be held at the fairgrounds. Watch this article for further information.

CAPS’ mailing address is P.O. Box 5128, Fallon, NV 89406. Please visit the CAPS website (www.capsnv.org) and Facebook page (Churchill Animal Protection Society). Be sure to “Like” CAPS on Facebook because we are really likable.

Do you have questions, comments or a great story? Please contact me at jkwmil@outlook.com.

Kathleen Williams-Miller, a CAPS volunteer, contributed this week’s column.

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