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Celebrating Our Best Friend on International Friendship Day

You might not hear a lot about events in your area, but International Friendship Day is coming up. We have so many very specific days – Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Secretary’s Day – but this one is very broad. It has roots in the USA.  In 1935, the US government declared the first Sunday in August Friendship Day. The United Nations got onboard with the idea in 2011 and proclaimed 30th July as the International Day of Friendship.

Having strong friendships is good for individuals and society. We’re happier and healthier when we have friends who celebrate our victories and support us in hard times. Elderly people with strong friendships are less likely to suffer from depression and heart disease.

Good friends bring out the best in us. They inspire kindness and encourage us to take better care of ourselves. One type of friend particularly excels at helping us stay happy and healthy. This friend can sense when you feel down and will drop everything to come comfort you. He or she is always happy to see you, and openly delights in your company. If you lose your job or suffer a romantic break up, this friend offers no criticism, just unconditional, unwavering love and encouragement. And this friend won’t take you to a bar to drown your sorrows or pursue an ill-advised rebound relationship. Instead, this friend will encourage you to stick to your routine and get out for a walk everyday while reminding you that you are indeed worthy and lovable. This is your best friend – your dog.

Dogs Are Our Most Loyal Friends

Dogs are famous for being loyal. Obviously, they never need to move away for a job or drop us for a new relationship. They don’t mind what we watch on telly, and our annoying quirks don’t faze them in the slightest. In recent times, social media has been full of stories of canine loyalty. But history is also full of stories showing how devoted to us our dogs really are.

St. Roch (aka St. Rocco) is the patron saint of dogs, and one of the most famous stories about him is about canine loyalty and assistance. St. Roch developed the plague. He had been tending the sick when he himself was struck down. St. Roch was expelled from the town, and as he lay sick in the nearby woods, a dog found him. This dog licked his wounds, miraculously healing them, and brought him bread every day. Closer to home, we have the story of Fionn’s wolfhounds Bran and Sceolan who found his son Oisin in the forest after his pregnant wife had been lured away.

Tokyo’s Shibuya Station features a statue of Hachiko, an Akita who continued to meet the evening train his owner took home after his owner died. Hachiko showed up every day for the rest of his life, looking for his beloved human. In Argentia, a dog named Capitan was distraught when his owner died and managed to locate the graveyard where he was buried. Capitan has refused to leave his owner’s grave. In 1923, an American family travelled from Oregon to Indiana for a vacation. They brought their dog Bobbie, but he became lost. The family had to return home without him. But six months later, Bobbie appeared at their home in Oregon having made his way more than 4,000 kilometres and crossed the Rocky Mountains.

Why Are Dogs So Loyal?

Cynics might say dogs are loyal out of self-interest. In the modern world, dogs depend on us for their food and shelter. We protect them in ways, and they protect us in other ways. But the idea that dogs are only in it for the food betrays a total misunderstanding of canine instincts. A dog’s devotion to their human family is about more than a dish of food.

Think about the stories of dogs pining for their deceased owners. There’s no food in that for them. Hachito was getting fed at home, not at the train station. Likewise, there were no dog treats on offer at the cemetery where Capitan lay on his owner’s grave. Do you know why puppies cry at night when they first join their new human family? Because they are lonely for their littermates. It is not natural to them to sleep alone. They crave the comfort of snuggling up with their littermates.

Dogs are fundamentally social creatures. They are pack animals. Yes, there is an element of survival in that instinct, but it is much more. Look at how joyful your dog is when you arrive home – whether or not it is dinner time. See how he loves to go for walks or play fetch with you. Your dog’s natural instinct is to please you and earn your praise and affection. Belonging is critical to his well-being as much as it is to ours, maybe even more so.

Your dog doesn’t follow you to the loo because you feed him. He doesn’t leap with joy when you arrive home because you give him treats. Your dog does not bark at visitors and protect you from anyone he deems questionable because he wants a snack. He does these things because you are his friend. He doesn’t judge you or get angry when you are too busy to give him a belly rub. He’s the most patient and selfless friend anyone could have, so why not celebrate your canine companion on International Friendship Day along with your human friends? Your dog doesn’t want a card – just some time with you and a dog treat will get his tail wagging.


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