By ALEX HEYMAN | Moonshine Ink

When I was a teenager, my brother committed suicide. I got angry a lot for a long time after that. During one of those episodes I was in the backyard of my parents’ house and just wanted to be left alone with my rage. Kaya, the family German shepherd, had followed me out there and had no intention of leaving me alone. I yelled at her to go, but she wouldn’t budge. Instead, she just stood there, her eyes fixed on me with a concerned look on her face. She clearly wasn’t going anywhere while I was hurting. Finally I gave in. A smile crept across my face and I reached down to give her a hug. That was it. My anger was gone, at least for the moment, and she was happy again knowing that I was okay. She had overwhelmed my anger with her love.

There’s no mistaking the healing power of dogs. It’s not just a nice idea or something rescue shelters say to increase adoptions. Studies have shown that animals can reduce tension and improve mood. If you want to live a healthy, happy life, follow this simple plan: exercise, eat reasonably well, and get a dog. It’s almost guaranteed to be more effective than therapy, and much cheaper.

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Stories abound about dogs that save the lives of the people they live with by alerting someone to trouble, by providing their human with a reason not to take their own lives, or just by offering the kind of unconditional love that most people can only strive for. I wonder if my brother had had the benefit of a dog’s love all those years ago things might have turned out differently.

While volunteering at the animal shelter where I used to live, I fell in love with a large German shepherd named Chewy. One day I found out he’d been put down, and I felt sad that someone, somewhere had missed out on his affection.

Fortunately, the Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe is a no-kill facility. In fact, the new shelter allows HSTT to house even more dogs than before and, space permitting, they will take in dogs from other facilities in the region that would otherwise be put down due to lack of space.

I urge you to consider adopting a new furry housemate not just for the dog’s sake, but for your own. The love they will give you will enrich your life beyond measure, and it may just be one of the best decisions you ever make. I wish Chewy didn’t have to sacrifice his life to help me reach this insight, but at least I can hope it will contribute to a growing appreciation for the truly wonderful nature of a dog-filled life.

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