Column: A (Wo)man’s Best Friend

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Photo credit: Scarlet Levin

Dogs. Did I fetch your attention? Pets are a huge part of living in the United States, which has hundreds of thousands of pet boutiques and animal instagram accounts.

According to Fortune.com, Americans spent an estimated 62.75 billion dollars on their animal friends in 2016 alone, and it is believed that around 44 percent of American homes own a dog. However, even the largest sums of money will never amount to the love we have for all our pets. But today, I will be talking about one animal in particular: canis lupus familiaris, or dogs.

The dogs at Archer are some of the best canines around. Whether you prefer getting lost in Gus’s endless, fluffy mass of fur or chilling in the Rose Room with Willie on your lap, the dogs of Archer never have a ruff time making us smile (Yes, I have dog puns, and they are barkinpawsome).  

I have a dog, a beautiful and crazy Collie (like Gus!) named Bella. When I was little, she wasn’t a dog however. She was a big, ferocious…warthog, at least to my brother and I. Now, I cannot tell you exactly why we believed this, it might have been because of our weird obsession with the wild beast, that she eats out of our hands or because Bella tends to — even now — snort and squeal like a pig. No matter the reason, she was our family warthog, but that’s not all.

In addition, Bella never goes by “Bella.” My brother and I have given her over 30 different nicknames, but since we constantly create new ones, Bella (or Iggi, Snuffaluffagus, Oogle, etc.) now responds to anything if we say it in a high enough voice.

If you couldn’t tell, Bella is one of my best friends, and I notice I feel different around her. When I have a bad day, or I don’t have any money on my Starbucks card, I replace the endless joy I get from food with my dog (warthog?). No matter how stressed I am, I always feel a bit calmer and more energized when Bella comes and bites my toes (yes, my toes.) And I quickly came to learn that this is not an uncommon phenomenon, the joy and ease Bella brings me, but that this is actual science.

Oxytocin is a hormone that is produced by the hypothalamus in our brain. When released, oxytocin helps relax our bodies, as well as improve positive social interaction, reduce stress reactions such as anxiety and anti-trust and improves mental stability. According to the Washington Post, simply looking at a pooch raises the oxytocin levels in both you and the dog itself, reducing stress levels and improving overall mood.

Photo by Scarlet Levin
Hannah Joe ’21 and Archer dog Gus enjoy the courtyard and each others’ company! Gus is one of many dogs on campus.

In addition, being around dogs make people more active. Simple movements such as throwing a ball for fetch, walking a pup or even squishing those pudgy faces help to reduce depression and weight gain. Dogs helps our body release endorphins, which in turn makes us happier, more confident and positive.

Even without statistics, dogs help us in tremendous ways. Now some of you may be asking, how do I give back? There are many ways to help at our school and in your community. Set up a drive at Archer for dog toys or treats (We’ve had many successful pet drives in the past!), volunteer at a shelter, foster a dog or just make sure your pupper has enough water for the day.

Archer alum Harley Quinn Smith ‘17 wrote for the Oracle about adopting dogs rather than buying them and the horrible process that happens to animals in many shelters. With your help, we can help doggos everywhere, and don’t just limit it to dogs! Cats, hamsters, fish and the odd pet rock all need our love and support. And, to be frank, we need theirs.

So next time you are feeling stressed or down, find an Archer dog — may it be Gus and his fur or Willie and his lap-sitting abilities — and give them a nice, big hug. Chances are, they’ll love it as much as you will.